“The Volunteer”

“Just Thinking” is a book of poetic verse, most of which are based on personal experiences, and may therefore reflect life to many readers. The book is available in eBook, paperback and hard cover formats from Friesen Press, amazon and all the other usual on-line book retailers.

In the late 1970’s, I spent just over two years as a volunteer with the Crisis Intervention Unit at Toronto East General Hospital, and this piece was written as a reflection of one particular night-shift.

“The Volunteer”

Driving to work;

Another shift to complete;

I wondered… tonight…

Who will I meet?


Another attempted suicide?

Another broken heart?

Another man in trouble with the law?

Perhaps… a girl who needs a fresh start?


Just last week, I sat at my desk.

Said “Hi” to the Emergency staff;

Sipped my routine coffee,

And, in the distance, somebody laughed.


Then the phone rang!

I answered on first ring

But… not a sound was heard.

No voice. No sounds. Nothing.


I waited… repeated “Hello?”

And then I heard a sigh.

A tired voice that said “Hello…

I think I want to die.”


“I‘ve taken all my pills.

I’m living on my own.

I am tired of this life.

Would you please talk to me while I go?”


I signaled to a colleague,

To start to trace the call.

I had no idea what town she was in.

No idea where she was at all.


I learned that she had been abandoned.

She felt rejected and alone.

Her boyfriend had simply moved on and…

She believed that she had no one, just me… on the ‘phone.


The call trace was going so very slow,

But then she happened to say

That her boyfriend lived in Toronto;

Around the corner to her, a short way.


She eventually gave me his number.

I swiftly noted it down,

But a phone call there proved fruitless.

Perhaps he was out of town?


The police were called.

They sent a car to his home.

They got his address from the number.

They found him there. He was not alone.


They told him what was happening,

But he didn’t seem to care.

He did give them her address though.

They called an ambulance to meet them there.


Meanwhile… I was trying hard

To keep her talking on the ‘phone.

She was clearly very tired.

I told her she was not alone.


She started sounding very faint.

Was I losing this call?

She’d been talking now for so very long.

What could I do to stall?


I told her to let me know

The address of her home,

So we could arrange to pick her up.

She did not have to be on her own.


(She must not hang up her phone.

She must not give up and die.

I have to keep her going.

Is there something I’ve yet to try?)


(A young life was in the balance.

Hanging on by a telephone call.

Desperation was all I felt,

But I was hitting a solid wall).


Then her phone was clearly dropped,

And I thought… Is this how it ends?

A valuable life destroying itself,

Alone… and without friends.


But no… she picked it up again,

And I heard a door bell faintly ring.

I heard some voices far away.

I waited… what was happening?


A new voice then came on her phone.

It was the police. They were pleased to say

An ambulance had just arrived,

And would be bringing her in right away.


The call trace was cancelled.

Now paperwork had to be done,

After a very demanding phone call.

This battle appeared to have been won.


Driving home from work.

Another shift completed,

I pondered… that night…

A desire to die had been defeated.


Tonight… I will do it again.

Tonight… I left my home.

Tonight… for a while… I’ll be friends again

With strangers… who feel lost and alone.

For more information about my book “Just Thinking”, please scroll back up and select the “Just Thinking” book cover in the column to the right.

9 thoughts on ““The Volunteer”

  1. Such a poignant poem! I can only imagine what a stressful job that had to have been. Thankful for caring hearts like yours to help those who feel lost! Caring hearts are so needed in this world today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was told that their average “burn-out” of a volunteer was 2 years. I was very pleased with myself for doing 2-1/2 years. The end was in sight for me when I realised that I was starting to generalize the people who I saw (“Oh … here’s another ………………..!’). As soon as they started to lose their individuality, I figured it was time to move on to something less stressful. Better for them ……. and better for me! 🙂


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