In my search for an online volunteer opportunity, I came across 7 cups. I read their presentation - 7 Cups is a website that provides online therapy and free support to people experiencing emotional distress by connecting them with trained listeners.
The words appealed to me right away, so I joined 7 Cups five years ago.
The execution appeared simple, almost cliché. Listen carefully, and then listen some more. Everyone needs a sympathetic ear, and everyone yearns for a buddy through challenging times.
I log into the site whenever I have free time. I choose a person from a list of computer-generated names, and we converse.
Sometimes it lasts only a minute, and other times an hour.
No names are being exchanged, and no personal information. Just touching souls like two ships passing at night. There is no questioning, judging, or contemplation of what could or should have been done.
The truth, of course, is seldom as tidy as the script suggests.
People come in for various reasons, some of which are a genuine need to talk and a stranger sometimes easier to pour one's heart out to. Others try to utilize the site as a dating platform or even prey and insult behind the anonymity. People who are hurting often strive to retaliate.
I've learned that caution is usually a good idea. I also discovered that loneliness, depression, and anxiety are modern-day epidemics. A pandemic of the type for which distance is not the best treatment option.
I learned a lot about myself as well. It's so simple to jump to conclusions. To make an assumption and offer needless advice. I discovered that empathy, a term often overused, is the constant challenge in creating a delicate balance. Acknowledging and shedding light at the same time. A single word of truth can make a difference in someone else's life.
And so, we meet:
Hello, great to meet you.
Is there anything you'd like to discuss?
It doesn't matter if it's for five minutes or an hour.
And then we split ways.
Both sides are a little lighter and maybe wiser.
We often dismiss small acts of kindness as platitude. We search for heroic acts that will save the world. But I am here to tell you of the power of a single word. How it can light someone's darkness and calm the pounding of a lonely, aching heart.