My daily job can be routine and sometimes not so routine. Correspondence from the IRS can be unsettling, to say the least, for our members. Recently, a case came across my desk that was one of those “not so routine” cases. I was able to lend an ear to a person in need, and it made my day.
In the midst of making a series of routine first contact calls, I dialed a number to make an introduction. When a woman (our member) answered the phone, I was greeted with a shaken and broken tone. I introduced myself and explained why I was calling. The woman on the other end of the line began to cry. While reminding myself not to cross “that personal” line, I asked if everything was okay.
Normally, people are shaken up because of the unknown regarding the audit notice they have just received. But this was different. And then, just like that, out came a whole lifetime of moments and memories. The member, still crying, shared with me the loving life that she’d had with her “brilliant” husband. She described him in detail − what he looked like, what his voice sounded like. She told me how they had moved from their house by the beach to their house in the mountains because of his love for architecture. He’d enjoyed restoring houses to their former glory. As I listened, I could hear her smile as she described more details about their life together and the memories they’d shared.
As she continued with her story, her voice began to exude sadness and she started to cry once again. She described an urn that she was holding in her hands and explained that her husband had just passed away at the beginning of the month. She had just received his ashes about a half hour before I called. I apologized for my timing.
The member continued to talk, telling me about her husband’s cancer and untimely demise. She said the audit could not have happened at a worse time. I tried to think of something to say to her, something that we have been trained to say. But I had nothing; instead, I just listened. By the time she reached the end of her story, she seemed to be at peace. When I got off the phone with her, I had to get up and walk away from my desk.
Today, I could not be more grateful that I had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of this phone call. The woman just wanted someone to listen to her. It was a good reminder that when we pick up the phone, one hundred percent of the time, the person on the other end just wants to be heard. At times it is easy to forget to be personable because the calls and interactions can become somewhat routine. People can be frustrated, rude, or whatever the situation may be. And sometimes, on days like today, moments like this remind me of exactly why I love my job.
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