Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Paying it Forward with 2-1-1



By Guest Blogger, J'nai Starks, South Sound 2-1-1 Workforce Navigator 

I have always been a person that has a passion to help people in need. Even in grade school, I always made a point to speak to our janitors because I knew that there is more than what you see on the surface.

Everyone has feelings and is important to someone else.  In fact, without workers like this, our infrastructure would crumble.

I have carried this attitude throughout my life. In my late teens and early 20’s I would go out and feed homeless people on my own. Taking my own money and making sack lunches, and not just PB & J sandwiches either, but full-on lunches. The look on their faces when they opened those bags filled my heart with happiness and gave me hope.

I myself have been in crisis and there was nowhere to turn. This left me in a position of feeling hopeless. One day, I saw a sign somewhere that said just that, “Nowhere to turn? Call 2-1-1.” So, I did. I was connected to resources to help me in my time of need. 

I personally know the struggle of the 2-1-1 caller being vulnerable and feeling shame in asking for help. That’s why I know I must always bring compassion, empathy and empowerment with me every day to work so I can be that bright spot in someone’s day.

Many times, I have had someone call in tears, to say they don’t know what to do-- or where to turn. By the end of that call, I have identified resources and provided words of encouragement so they know to keep fighting and also to know, that this storm will pass.

One person I remember very well is Gary. He was scared and crying and worried about his health. He wanted to know where to go to get a health test. During that call, Gary shared that he was homeless and living in his car. He also told me, he didn’t want to live anymore, because life has gotten so hard.

I wanted Gary to know that it was going to be ok and life was worth living.  So I took the time to talk to him but mostly I listened.  Much of our job involves listening so we can find the best solutions for each person.

I encouraged Gary to be strong and whatever challenges he faced-- to know he can get thru it.  By the end of our call he was laughing and told me he had the will to live. Gary said he felt that no one listened to him, but I took the time to let him vent, speak his heart and listen to him as he explained his life to me.

Not only did I provide resources for where he can go to get a health test but I also provided resources to Gary over the phone and thru email which included shelters, safe parking, local food pantries and gas vouchers.

Gary responded to me later that day saying: “You gave me hope this evening, your voice made me feel like I was not alone anymore. This is a testament to your courage and ability in your job and your unwavering support for broken people. You gave me hope and it instilled. I cannot express how deeply your words meant to me. You took away my fear regardless of the pending outcome.”

One week later, I followed up with Gary and he told me:  “Everything is going great! Your help, helped! So far, I'm doing much better and I guess I had to go through all of that to sharpen me more.  I have utilized church services for: Gas, a phone card and food pantry services-- so far my health is better! And my test was negative.”

That is just one of many stories. Which is why I do what I do and why I love it. Without 2-1-1, many lives would be at stake financially, emotionally and physically.  Each of us are here on earth to do our part – and building up our community to be the best that it can be, by being a member of the 2-1-1 team, I am given the opportunity to do just that every day.

I love working at 2-1-1. To know that I am helping our community, one member at a time warms my heart and makes me want to be a better person every day. Thank you for your time and I hope each of you are doing your part as well.


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