At 3:17 a.m., the telephone was ringing. (For some reason, the first thing we do when the telephone rings in the middle of the night is: we look to see what time it is.)
I answered, fearing bad news.
There was silence.
I went back to bed.
I had fallen asleep again when the telephone rang again. Now it was 3:42 a.m. – but it felt like longer since the first call.
I answered. Silence again.
Because our telephone system forwards emergency calls to me, I do get calls in the middle of the night. Sometimes, the wind rattles the front door of The Review and it sets off our alarm. I get a call.
Sometimes, a fire is raging in the middle of the night, somewhere. I get a call.
Last week, a cousin I rarely speak to called me in the middle of a Wednesday. As we chatted about our grown children and reconnected, I got the feeling there was bad news coming. As I listened to news about her husband and her three children, I wondered: what has happened?
Finally, I came out with it. Are you calling with some kind of bad news, I asked.
Yes, she said. One of our cousins had died; our aunt had called her earlier that day.
We know that calling someone is a surefire way of clearly reaching out to someone. If we don’t return phone calls, we hear about it.
If we unplug our answering machines (I did this recently), we hear about it.
I have one friend that I only call when I have a few hours clear, because I know we are going to get carried away and talk. About everything.
Emails are fun and we can be witty and organize our thoughts, but calling someone or having someone call you means that you are in their thoughts right at that moment and that warmth and intimacy brings a conversation and connection to life.
I have always liked the notion of people doing what they do in life because of “a calling.” It is almost the idea of a request coming from a higher, more true place when one hears of someone answering a calling to be a priest, a doctor, a missionary, a teacher, or a nurse.
When we need help, we call the police, we call firefighters. When loved ones leave us, we call the funeral director. (Imagine what these people think every time the telephone rings.)
I love it that people still ask if they are calling at a good time. In fact, I ask that same question when I call someone. And I always hope they will say yes.
But when is there a good time to call people? I don’t think any time is a good time. For me, it’s not good at meal times, not good when I’m at work, not good during my few evenings at home. Not weekends either, because I am usually on my way out somewhere.
Which makes me think that perhaps, the unknown 3 a.m. caller was onto something. Perhaps it was someone who had decided that was the best time to call me.
I am joking, of course.
At the end of the day, I think the best thing about calls is the decision to make the call. Or that when you receive a call, you make a decision to stop and listen. You take the call. You decide to heed the call.
It might be the call of the wild. A call to action. A call to stand up and speak up. A call to reconnect, to collect information or to make something happen.
And things do happen.
If you are free to take the call.