This past week I had the opportunity to volunteer as an operator for the Central Ohio Trafficking Hotline (285-HELP). I must say, it was by far one of the most emotionally and mentally demanding things I have ever done. I had to be available to answer calls 24 hours a day for the entire week. That means I answered calls that rang in the middle of taking a shower, in the middle of attempting to eat dinner out at restaurants, and even while grocery shopping. With cell phones everywhere nowadays, you wouldn’t think that would be such a big deal. But answering a call on the Trafficking Hotline is much different than answering a call from your sister or your golfing buddy in the middle of grocery shopping. You have to listen intently to the caller’s situation, write down details of what they relay to you, ask lots of pertinent questions to accurately assess their situation, and determine very quickly what resources can be called upon to help them in this scenario. Sometimes I just looked up some phone numbers for them to get the most direct connection to the assistance they needed. Sometimes I was calling my resources for immediate help to get the caller to safety. Every time I got off the phone I thought about something else I could have said or asked that might have helped the caller, or might have helped someone else help them better. In some instances, because my heart was heavy, my eyes even stayed open at night while I wondered how the person was doing and if I did everything I could to help them.
With all that said, I can also say without a doubt that this experience has been one of the most completely rewarding of my life. I never knew how a bunch of calls interrupting my shower would affect me. I never knew that I would remember the voices of my callers and how they sometimes trembled just a little bit when explaining their need for help. I never knew that a person dialing a phone could be such an act of bravery. And I never realized that making myself available to answer a phone would turn out to be such an important decision in my life.
Even though I was little more than the middle man between the help my callers need and the actual people who can help them, I realized that being available to answer that phone was truly a life-giving action. In some cases, the fact that a person in need of help even had that phone number to call in the first place was actually a life-saving thing. In some cases, it just made their lives more comfortable for a time. Either way, I realized it was a lifeline for them in some way, and I got the privilege of being part of it.
I thought about how in many different ways, we really all have the opportunity every day to be a lifeline for someone. Maybe not on a hotline that is published all over the place, but maybe just in our kitchen when we get a call from a friend having a bad day. Maybe it’s when a customer calls about an important shipment that is late. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with a phone, but comes in the form of a person at church asking you to pray for them. It might even be less obvious than that, like when someone you pass by looks lonely and you give them a smile or exchange some small talk. Maybe that’s their only lifeline for that day. I think a lifeline can be anything that keeps one person connected to another for a moment, and communicates a message to them that says “You’re important. You’re not alone.” In that same way, when we connect with each other, we’re connecting to something bigger and beyond ourselves. Something good. Something full of life.
We don’t always know when the opportunity to be a lifeline will come up, but we can choose to make room in our lives for when they do. We can pray for eyes to see and ears to hear things that are not always on the outside, and we can actively seek out opportunities to be a lifeline to others around us. What is it that stirs your heart in a way that you just can’t seem to not think about it? What heavies your heart to the point where you just have to take action, even if that means stretching beyond your comfort zone?
For me, its men and women and children who are treated like property, in a modern time when we look back on what we’ve always known of slavery and we shake our heads in disgust. It’s people not even knowing that an equally disgusting injustice is happening today, right in our back yards, but in numbers that dwarf everything our history books ever taught us about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
For you, it might be orphans or clean water or the environment or access to medical care or racial reconciliation or homelessness or gang violence or education or poverty in general. I don’t know. All of these things are worthy of attention, but only your specific few will stir you individually into action. If you don’t know where you’re meant to be a lifeline, get your feet wet in something and start figuring it out. Because I’m telling you…time’s a-wastin’. And if you’re not making yourself available to be that lifeline to someone, then they’re missing out on something they need, and so are you. Find your lifeline so you can be one.
If human trafficking is what stirs you into action, check out the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition , doma International, or Gracehaven House for ways you can help in the central Ohio area. Outside of that area, visit Love146, Not For Sale, Free the Slaves, or International Justice Mission, or As Our Own to learn more about human trafficking in the US and around the world.