My baby sister called me in tears the other morning. She's had a rough go of it this fall. An unexpected break-up, a leave from work that ended just in time for the holiday rush, and getting ready for Christmas alone in Michigan, while the rest of our family enjoys the season together in Indiana. She called from work. "If one more customer is rude to me, or blames me for not having the answer to a dumb question, I'm going to lose it!" she cried to me. "Don't they understand I'm trying to help? Don't they care that I'm a human being with feelings? I'm just trying to afford my life as a single person, and not feel broken, lonely and abandoned!"
Don't they care I'm a human being with feelings? Oh sweet sister.
I've been on the phone with insurance companies, the hospital accounting department, a private medical practice, our internet provider, and our tax accountant all in the last 24 hours. I've wanted to reach through the phone and pummel half of them. Why? Because it feels complex to me. Because I'm nervous about the bills. I'm worried about the premiums. My fear has me upset before I even dial. As soon as a polite voice comes through on the other line, I want to scream "Listen! I'm not the next 15 minutes of your 9 to 5! I'm not just a case, account, or claim number! I'm a human being with feelings! HELP ME PLEASE!"
I'm the customer.
My sister is the service agent.
Human beings with feelings.
Since I talked to her before all the other service agents, I've let a little perspective creep in. Something dangerously close to compassion maybe.
When I'm overwhelmed, it's so easy to be terrified of anything else coming along. I can't take anything more! I'm so afraid it's going to be too much. I'm realizing it's not though. There's still a little room. There was enough room for my baby sister. So why not for the others like her? The others trying to help me. Doing their best. And even if they can't give me the answer, maybe it'll be ok. Maybe I don't need all the answers. Maybe the answer "I'm sorry ma'am, I just don't know" is actually kind of freeing.
I'm the customer.
They're the service agent.
We're human beings with feelings.
During the holidays it's easy to feel like there's not enough time, money, or brain space for anything else. But maybe there is. And if we all have a little bit, just enough extra to see ourselves in other people, maybe we don't have to feel like victims, seeing one another as the enemy. Instead we can be allies, shouldering similar burdens. When I see an ally, I stop feeling alone. I feel like WE can take on just a little more. And that sets me free from the worry that I'm going to break bearing these burdens all on my own.