Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Saved By Sense of Humor

Christmas Week. Children wanting. Families stretched. Santa overtaxed or possibly absent.
As the Universe would create, yesterday my phone started ringing and ringing, incoming calls destined for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), and somehow misrouted to our home.

"I need to get my food stamps," one mother said, her voice clearly stressed and scared. On the next call I heard a baby screaming in the background. "I got a message that my application was incomplete," the tired young mother said.

How did this mixup happen? The number clients were calling wasn't remotely like ours, not even the same area code.
My phone company suggested that a welfare worker had forwarded her office phone incorrectly, punching in my number. They said her number was unlisted, and they had no idea who she was or what could be done.

So, I decided to just answer the phone, explain the problem, and wish the callers well, reassuring them that things would work out.

This morning, when the calls started up again and came one after another, I decided to do some sleuthing. An online search produced a DCF administrative phone number, and after being transferred three times, I was connected to Joann in Information Technology (IT). She laughed with me at the absurdity of the situation, and kept thanking me for my NOT getting angry or irritated. "I know what it is like when clients get a hold of a number, they just keep calling," she said.

"Well, I decided that it must be my role this week to reassure the poor that things will work out," I replied. From my vantage point, the truly inconvenienced parties in this scenario were the clients without benefits and the worker not getting her work done. I had no role, so I chose one. I chose to see the whole event as funny, and to be a voice of peace and comfort.
What surprised me was how surprised and grateful the various government workers were about my mood. Is kindness so rare? Is a sense of humor only reserved for Comedy Central viewers?

When I study and read the wisdom of the Great Spiritual Leaders, I am always drawn to artists who reference the Laughing Jesus and the Laughing Buddha. At first, I found these images strange: I never had seen these faces smiling broadly. But the more I have learned, the more I am convinced that beyond their tender hearts, Jesus and Buddha succeeded as messengers of peace because they knew how to laugh.
Sometimes, expressing laughter over anger must be a conscious choice. We each have the power to pass along laughter, rather than rage. I am grateful I was alert enough to see a weird call-forwarding snafu as such an opportunity. I've been saying I wished I could do something this week for the poor. My wish was fulfilled, wasn't it?!

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