54: A Call a Day Keeps the Loneliness at Bay

54: A Call a Day Keeps the Loneliness at Bay

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back

A Call a Day Keeps the Loneliness at Bay

We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.

~Author Unknown

For much of my childhood, my mother filled the evening hours doing something for someone else. Sometimes she knitted hats for preemies, and at other times she cooked chicken soup for sick neighbors. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when one evening my mother announced she’d undertaken a new project.

“I’m going to telephone seniors,” said my mother.

“Every night? But you don’t even know these people.”

“Doesn’t matter,” she said. “What’s important is that I listen.”

I was sixteen years old and couldn’t fathom why my mother was willing to spend her evenings talking to strangers. She had friends and my two older sisters to call if she felt lonely. “They’ll talk your ear off,” I said.

My skepticism didn’t diminish my mother’s enthusiasm for the project. That evening, after washing up the dishes from supper, she settled on the sofa with the heavy rotary phone in her lap and dialed.

For a while, I listened as she asked the woman on the other line about her day, inquired what she had eaten for dinner, and asked if she had noticed that the daffodils in a neighboring park had begun to bloom. When she finished the call I said, “What do you care whether she had Jell-O or rice pudding for dessert?”

My mother grasped one of my hands and gave it a slight squeeze. “I’m the only person she talked to today.”

It took me close to thirty years to fully understand the significance of that statement. Now, as my mother is nearing eighty, I find myself thinking about those nightly calls she used to make.

I am often the only person who telephones my mother, and sometimes I’m the only person she speaks to all day. I ask her what she cooked for dinner, but mostly I just listen as she recounts a walk she took, or how her dog Lucky stole a bunch of Brussels sprouts from the refrigerator.

I realize now that my mother’s calls were lifelines that ensured housebound seniors remained connected to the world. Without her, their world would have been eerily empty. Somehow, she managed to juggle working full-time and raising a family while improving the lives of others. That kind of service requires commitment and superior organizational skills — traits and skills I do not possess. While she lifted the shroud of loneliness from the lives of five seniors, I struggle to call just one — my mother.

~Alicia Rosen

More stories from our partners