Many years ago I took a job at a small call center. While it wasn’t ideal, it met my needs as a wife and mother. It was part time, close to home and my work schedule accommodated my daughter’s school schedule as well. When I started, I felt like I could do the job for about a year.
The job was boring. The leadership was lackluster. But as with any job, it was more about the people I met there. Co-workers, customers and our nationwide store associates made it interesting and fun. There was one associate in Oklahoma that always made our day. We all looked forward to the opportunity of calling that specific store just because of him. When he answered, he sounded more like a radio jockey and less like a store manager. He was lively, upbeat, positive. It was contagious! His personality really helped us in the call center. We were tethered to a small desk, everything monitored down to the minute and working in an environment that was lacking in morale. He was a bright ray of sunshine when we needed it the most.
Just a few weeks before my one year anniversary with the company, I was called in to the office. I was surrounded by my supervisor, an acting manager and a manager from a call center in another state. They were putting me on a final warning for attendance (I had pneumonia and had been out for awhile). When I questioned why they were not following the company’s attendance policy, I was fired. I was mortified and relieved all at once. Looks like my feeling was right- one year it would be.
The weeks following were full of filing for unemployment, looking for a job, scrambling to make ends meet. I threw myself into my role as PTA President and treated that as my job. My ego was bruised, as I had never been fired from any job. My ego repeated internally- “I am the one that is always promoted, not fired!”. I have always believed everything happens for a reason, and I trusted this was no different. This door was slammed shut and I had to move forward.
A few weeks after I was let go, I was at home washing dishes. The man from Oklahoma crossed my mind. I thought, “I should call him and tell him how awesome he is and how much he helped our mood.” Then I immediately dismissed the notion. That’s crazy. Why would that matter? He doesn’t even know who I am. Ridiculous. But the feeling pressed upon my heart and my gut. I HAD to call him. It kept coming and felt urgent. I HAD to call him. NOW. Fiiinneee…… I thought. I’ll call him.
I dialed the Oklahoma store and asked for him. I was on hold for a few minutes. Thoughts raced through my mind- Why am I doing this? This is stupid. I’ve been on hold for so long. What if I have the wrong store? He’s going to think I’m dumb. This is pointless. I’m hanging up. “Hello?”. A man’s voice was on the other end. But it wasn’t upbeat. He sounded rather dull, tired. “Ummm….. Hi. I’m looking for Pete. Are you Pete?”. “This is Pete.” I was still unsure. His energy wasn’t the same. This couldn’t be the same guy. “Pete, this is Oklahoma City, right?”. “Yep, how can I help you?”. I continued in spite of my uncertainty. Here goes. “Well, Pete. I don’t know if you would remember me. My name is April and I worked in the Tampa call center. I am no longer with the company, but I felt like I should call you. I wanted to let you know how much we loved calling your store. You made our day! You were always so fun and cheerful. And, well, the call center environment is pretty bad. You were a silver lining in it. I needed to tell you how you are making such a positive impact on people just by being you. You might not realize that and I just wanted to say thank you. And keep being you- you are special and you are needed!”. SILENCE. Oh no….. CRICKETS. Oh God….. QUIET. What did I do this for?! “Pete? Are you still there?”. He quietly responded, “Yes.” More silence. Oh man is this awkward! Then he spoke. “I don’t know what to say. I am going through the worst part of my life. I am going through a divorce and don’t know what to do. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through it. Then you called. I sat in the back room and I did not want to take the call. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. It took everything in me just to pick up the line. And here you tell me what you just told me. And I can’t believe it. I just have no words.” We continued to have a beautiful, meaningful conversation. I hung up and spoke aloud: “If I had to work there for this entire year just so I could have this one conversation, this one moment- It was worth every minute of it.”