In preschool, for a shy or otherwise isolated student, having a classmate who extends an invitation to the playground can make a difference in building confidence in interacting with others and turning school into a positive experience. For someone living with depression, having a friend reach out can help an individual feel seen, better understood and valued.
It only took one friend for me to start acting on a resolution to start racing in triathlons. I expressed my desire to race, she listened and said, “let’s do it,” and that was all I needed to hold myself accountable. Having this person who cared, who showed up, allowed me to follow the path I was so hoping to walk.
I was hired in 2021 to be the lead caller in the Sunshine Calls program that Factor Health at Dell Medical School holds in partnership with Lone Star Circle of Care clinics and others. In this research trial, participants receive six months of phone calls and text messages from empathetic callers on my team and then have measurements taken five times during the year to see if they can improve their blood sugar levels and their mental health. When I first heard about the opportunity, I felt moved toward being that person on the phone — not a medical advisor, but a person who cares and listens. Being this dedicated partner, a person whose primary goal is to truly listen, sounded so magical.
As of now, I’ve been calling 15 participants who signed up because they want to do something different to improve their health. It’s been 20-plus weeks of making phone calls to these incredible people. I’ve made connections and have learned so much about their lives, goals, challenges, frustrations, struggles, emotions and successes. I’ve been so touched by their willingness to sign up, to open their hearts, to be living a life that might have already been hard without diabetes. They are doing their best as humans — failing, trying, succeeding and everything in between.
Participants have been thankful for our time on the phone, and some have shared how since they started the program, they’ve been more consistent with their medicine, are consciously choosing better food and are trying to move more during the day. All I know is that it takes very little from me, and it is a difference-maker for the person who, just like you and me, might only need one person who cares to keep moving forward.
In reflecting on my experience, I invite you think about who you can be that one person for, who in your circle can benefit from you reaching out. Not to solve any of their problems, but to be there and truly care. I find that if we could only see how relevant we can be in the lives of others, we might be reaching out more and building an incredible chain of support that really doesn’t take too much of an effort to make.