After escaping to a women’s shelter, proceeding with a necessary divorce, and receiving professional diagnosis of her son’s disabilities, a young single mother made the decision that a college education would give her the best possibilities in the journey ahead. After enrolling in college, this young mother found herself confined to caring for her son, attending classes, and studying every day alone. Although she had assumed there would be difficult times, she had no idea that the social isolation would affect her so deeply.
Because of the higher stress levels for single mothers, they have less than a 10 percent likelihood of graduating from college. It didn’t take long for the social isolation to bring this mother to discouragement. She needed someone to talk to.
Then one day, while listening to the radio, she heard the invitation to call CONTACT Helpline. She decided to call and see if someone on the other end of the phone might be able to help. That call became only the first in a long series of weekly conversations with new friends who were there to listen. She consistently found compassion, and kindness, and sometimes even prayer.
This past spring the young mother graduated from Maryville College! With sincere appreciation for those who had become such an important part of her support structure she wrote the following note:
CONTACT’s listening ear helped me move from despair and isolation to action and choice. It seems that just being there, on the phone, to listen, not fixing me, not condemning me, and not telling me what to do (although sometimes I did ask), allowed me to learn to trust myself, and make good choices for myself and my son … I am very grateful for the social support that I received through CONTACT Helpline. Thank you for letting me need you. Thank you for being there for me.
The importance of simple listening is often forgotten in our busy lives today. Next time you feel like responding to someone by sharing all that’s going on in your own life, why not pause and simply allow the other person to continue sharing what else might be on their mind.
CONTACT Helpline operates from Oak Ridge and is a free, confidential, nonjudgmental telephone helpline serving Anderson, Blount, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Roane, Sevier, and Union counties in East Tennessee. CONTACT volunteers answer approximately 10,000 calls annually from people needing someone to talk to, a referral to community resources, or crisis intervention. People of all ages call CONTACT about loneliness, depression, loss of a loved one, mental illness, financial need and economic pressures, domestic violence, sexual abuse, homelessness, marriage problems, worries about their children, addiction, school- and work-related issues, and suicidal feelings.
In addition to the helpline, CONTACT offers a special program, Reassurance CONTACT, for seniors, disabled persons, and other homebound individuals who live alone. Clients who apply for the service receive a daily call to check on their safety and well-being.
For more information, call (865) 312-7450 or visit the website at http://contacthelplinetn.org/.
This column was written by Myra Mansfield based on information provided by CONTACT Helpline Executive Director Holly White.