When was the last time you opened a phone book, found a number and then picked up your phone to dial that number?
I’m serving my last few months of a four-year term on a small-town city council. Last weekend, the mayor called me to share an idea: Let’s divide up the phone book and call residents to check-in, ask if there’s anything we can do to help and simply be a friendly phone call.
I jumped on board and agreed to make several calls.
After I hung up from talking to the mayor, though, a little negative voice in my head started listing the reasons why I shouldn’t follow through.
The truth is, I feel vulnerable right now. I felt vulnerable before COVID-19 as our family has experienced immense change after our son’s spinal cord injury. Knowing I’d get questions about the next steps for our son and family, I continued to feel the tug to ditch the phone calls.
But, I’m an extrovert. It’s usually not difficult for me to strike up a conversation. Everyone has a story, and I’m energized after talking to others.
The longer I looked at the phone book in our kitchen, the more I thought about the people on the other end of the phone — people who are homebound and all alone with no one calling to check on them. Certainly, they have a story to share if only I would call them.
I believe we all are called to some form of public service. I felt a duty to follow through on the mayor’s idea and request. I also believe in the power of community — the very people who have rallied alongside our family during our son’s spinal cord injury could very well need me to return the favor.
I grabbed the phone book, went to our small business by myself on Sunday afternoon and sat down with the landline phone to make calls.
Eighteen people answered the phone when I called. I left messages for others.
Some I spoke to attend my church, but I haven’t seen them all winter since I’ve been in Colorado with our son. Others I’ve only seen around town. Our phone conversations that Sunday afternoon were the longest I’ve ever spoke to any of them.
No one shared a complaint, which one might expect when a council person calls. Each person was cheerful and eager to share stories. I enjoyed learning how each person is spending their time at home: reading, quilting, knitting, sewing, painting, doing puzzles, baking, cleaning out closets, binge watching TV shows and movies, going for a walk with their spouse, going on a drive alone, cooking with the food they’ve amassed in a chest freezer or pantry, and the list went on.
They shared stories of faith, friendship, health and vigilance. The people I called to check in on ended up helping me more. They gave me a sense of purpose for the week and unknowns ahead.
What would happen if we all used this time of social distancing to reconnect the old-fashioned way, by telephone?
Landline or mobile phone, start dialing. Skip the text or social media message. Those you haven’t talked to in ages or even acquaintances who could benefit from a conversation.
“I don’t have time” isn’t an excuse when we’re home to keep one another safe and healthy.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.