The angels may have wider spheres of action and nobler forms of duty than ourselves, but truth and right to them and us are one and the same thing.—E.H. Chapin
Looking back, I’m not quite sure all these years later whether or not my telephone counselor was (or rather is) an angel. Whatever her official angelic status, she was certainly an angel to me. I can recall distinctly the circumstances of, and the details surrounding, our first telephone conversation.. . .
I had recently returned home after nearly six months at a rehabilitation hospital following two spinal cord surgeries. The surgeries were supposed to repair three disks in my neck, but had left me paralyzed from the shoulders down for a number of months. I was still improving but progress was slow; I was undergoing physical therapy five days a week.
Along with my husband, Walter, I was trying my hardest to get things back to normal, or as normal as I could. I was finding this was not as easy as I had hoped or planned it would be. I was especially concerned that I do the right things for our five-year-old son, Jeffrey. He was so young and had been through so much already.
I wanted to do the “right” things—I was just not sure what that was. This led to my phone call to the county mental health center, which happened to be located in my town, but on the opposite side of town. Without being able to drive yet, I would be unable to get to any appointments with a counselor. I was desperate for help, so I called anyway, ready for all the obstacles ahead.
I dialed the main telephone number, anticipating the endless rounds of being put on hold or transferred to “someone who can help” me. So, imagine my surprise, when after just a ring or two, a warm, friendly voice answered:
“County Mental Health . . . can I help you?”
“I hope so,” I said, “I need to speak to someone about how I can help my little son.” I didn’t give too much detail, figuring that I would have to repeat it endless times during the course of finding a counselor. I thought I’d save the facts for then.
“I can help you,” said the voice, kindly. “Tell me your name.”
“My name is Donna.” I started off slowly, almost disbelieving that I could find help this quickly, without dialing even one extension, without being put on hold or transferred even one time.
“My name is Norma,” came the reply.
“That’s easy to remember—that’s my mother’s name.” I was even more incredulous with each passing moment. It had never occurred to me that Norma didn’t then, or in any of our subsequent phone conversations, ever give me her last name. She was simply “Norma.”
I then told her about my spinal surgeries. I told her quite frankly that while my medical condition was still improving, it was not anywhere near where I thought it should be, and that this was depressing me. I didn’t know how to protect Jeffrey from feeling those fears as well.
“I’m glad you called,” Norma said. “You have been through a lot. I understand what you are saying about your spinal surgery—I am an RN.”
Finally! I found someone who was not only willing to listen to my words, but who could also understand the emotional as well as the medical side of my concerns. This was a rare find, indeed!
I remember Norma saying during that first call: “Remember that despite everything going on, you must stay steady and grounded for Jeffrey. Show him that you are working hard to get better for him and for you. He loves you and needs you.”
“Thank you, Norma, thank you for listening. I appreciate it so very much!”
“You’re welcome, Donna.”
I hung up the phone, and thanked God that I had found such a warm, kindly counselor with whom I could easily discuss very personal issues.
One moment that stands out in my mind is one day when I confessed to Norma that I couldn’t understand how God had allowed this to happen to me, and, as a result, to my family, especially little Jeffrey. And how guilty I felt for having those feelings. I was so confused!
I will never forget Norma’s words to me that day: “Don’t worry, Donna. God gets blamed for a lot of things. He is used to being blamed for things that happen on earth. He understands your frustration—and your anger, too.”
Those were the words I needed to hear, and just when I needed to hear them! What comfort it gave me to know that He wasn’t angry with me! I was able to overcome those feelings eventually because of Norma’s personal counsel. She was my friend and she sounded as though she knew just how God felt about me.
Then, the inevitable day came. It had been a month or so since I had last spoken to Norma—the longest time that had elapsed between any of our phone calls. I wanted to call her to let her know I was still working hard and
still making progress in my therapy. As I made progress, my anxiety and depression were diminishing, just as Norma had told me they would.
Having Norma to talk to me was also a major factor in the decline of my concerns for Jeffrey. He was helping Walter and me cope (mainly by being himself) and was growing into a sensitive little boy who liked to help people. Things looked brighter for my whole family.
I wanted Norma to know the full impact she had, not only on me, but on Walter and little Jeffrey, as well. Her influence was nothing short of miraculous—just as miraculous as our initial telephone contact had been.
I dialed the number that linked me to the one person who had helped me without ever telling me her last name, someone who never charged me for her counsel, or for taking the time to listen to me. This time, however, Norma didn’t answer. A new voice answered my call.
“County Mental Health … how can I help you?”
I asked to speak to Norma, expecting to be transferred to her extension. I was stunned by what I heard next.
“I’m sorry, but there is no Norma here. Is there a last name?”
“Uh, no. She never gave me her last name. But I’ve talked to her at this number several times.”
“I’m sorry, there is no one by the name of Norma here, and there hasn’t been, at least since I’ve been working here.”
I thanked the receptionist for her time and hung up the phone, still trying to sort the latest turn of events out in my mind. I was a bit confused, but this certainly convinced me that Norma is an angel. I don’t know where she is, but I am quite sure that she is helping someone in their time of need this very minute.
This article is adapted from a chapter in the book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Everyday Catholicism: Seeing God’s Action in Our Lives. It is available as an ebook or paperback from your favorite bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.