Volunteering on the Parents Anonymous Family Helpline is a little like being the Wizard of Oz. We always tell people who call the line that we are not trained counselors but that we are there to listen and help as we can with referrals to other resources. Once in a while we can reach down in the bag and pull out some small gift like the watch for the Tin Man or the medal for the Cowardly Lion.
One such caller was a mother crying uncontrollably. She had just received a simple handmade birthday card from her daughter. As the mother talked and cried I listened. From what I gathered she has not had custody of her thirteen-year-old daughter for some time. She has visitation and summer vacation privileges but the girl now lives out of state with her father and his new wife.
The mother went on with the reason for her tears. She had spent a small fortune in the last year on presents for the girl, not just any presents but things any thirteen-year-old would love to have. It cost a lot to send the gifts by mail but her daughter was worth every penny. And then the mother’s birthday rolls around and what does her daughter give her but a plain sheet of paper with hand drawn pictures and a little note. She couldn’t understand how her daughter could have the nerve to send her this poor, hand written excuse of a birthday card. Why couldn’t she at least buy her a pretty card from a store?
I asked the mother to read to me what her daughter had written on the paper and through her tears this is what she read: “Happy Birthday Mom! I miss you so much every day. I remember all the fun times we had and count the days till I see you again. I say ‘thank you’ for our special relationship every time I pray. I love you Mom. I hope you have a very special day today.”
With that my own eyes began to fill with tears. I asked the mother again how old her daughter was. “Thirteen,” she replied. I pointed out that at thirteen the girl can’t possibly drive a car and in most states she can’t even hold a job. She said her daughter could have asked her dad for the money to buy a card.
I told the mother she was right; that the girl could have asked her dad for two dollars and then gone in to any store and plopped the money on the counter for a pretty card filled with someone else’s words but she didn’t. Instead, the girl took what she did have, plain paper and a pen. Then she put her own heartfelt words down on paper for her mom to read.
I asked her again to read what her daughter had written. She began again but more slowly this time. “Happy Birthday Mom. I hope you have a very special day today…” And as she read the words written by her daughter I reached into the Wizard of Oz’s bag and pulled out the greatest gift of all for this mother— a daughter’s love.
The mother still cried but these were a different kind of tear. She told me she was so glad she had made the call to the Family Helpline, that she felt so much better.
As a Volunteer on the Family Helpline you listen and help when you can. You can give referrals to people who are being evicted or have no food. You can refer a stressed out parent to a Parents Anonymous group near them or find help for the neglected elderly. And then once in a while you can do like the Wizard of Oz and touch a life forever.
Now I ask you, “Who benefits more from being a Volunteer on the Parents Anonymous Family Helpline?”
Talk with a Volunteer or Find a Group in New Jersey:
1-800-843-5437 or 1-800-THE-KIDS
Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc.
Phone: (609) 585-7666
Fax: (609) 585-7686