I went to my first training meeting last night. It started out how I had expected - taking about the issues of people in crisis, methodologies for helping them find peace and reduce stress from acute problems, outlines for resources that are available in the community.
And then we got to the section called "Boundaries"... and it was like I had walked into a brick wall. Two-thirds down the page it said, "Don't share any information about your own life. If people ask, say, 'We're here to talk about you, not me.'"
I can understand a need for anonymity. It was something I safeguarded for years. But when I talked with real people, I always shared my real story. When they called me to ask for advice, I could think of stories and experiences that helped them realize that someone cared and had been through similar experiences. And at the Crisis Line, that's not what they do.
One of the volunteers who's been there for a while said something after that made me think. "Who you are is your superpower. What are you going to do without it?" (I mentioned (G)MG and my experiences helping others as one of the reasons I wanted to volunteer)
I don't know what I'm going to do. If someone calls and is suicidal because they are severely depressed, have same-gender attraction, and are going through a crisis of faith, I don't know that I'll be able to just listen without feeling like I'm lying on the phone... or withholding something that may be far more useful than a list of community resources and half an hour on the phone with a nameless, anonymous listener.
People call me to call me. People call the crisis line to call the crisis line. But somewhere in my heart, I believe that they have the same motivations - not just looking for someone to listen, but someone to listen who can understand what's happening from personal experience, and maybe say something that will give hope or perspective or anything in darkness.
Crisis Line does amazing things - things that, perhaps because it is an institution, are out of reach for individuals on their own. They make a huge difference in the lives of people each day. I just find myself wondering. Maybe this will be the impetus to start my own version of a crisis line.
I've realized that the home teaching and visiting teaching programs of the Church are designed to take the place that Crisis Line does for some people. The problems that are too big to solve on your own, but don't need the help of your bishop... except for the issue of shame. People who have problems or concerns that they see as shameful (regardless of actual cultural views) are less likely to approach people they know... hence the need for people on the outside who can bridge the gap. If we could eliminate shame, then home and visiting teachers would be perfect. Ideally, that would happen. Practically, it doesn't make sense to assume it will. So maybe this will give me some of the pieces to put together.
Either way, it'll be a good learning experience. And helping people in crisis is never a bad thing.