The Trauma Intervention Program of Northwest Florida is very near and dear to my heart. While it is extremely difficult to put into words how valuable the program has been to me, I will indeed try to do just that. My numerous reasons for volunteering for TIP all come down to one simple reason. I love people. I also love to help people, and I believe God has gifted me to be able to help people, and more specifically to be able to help people in crisis.
I have enjoyed helping people for as long as I can remember, but my first official volunteer position was as a teenage candy striper at a hospital/nursing home. It was in that job that I discovered my love for “being there” for people who were lonely and simply needed to talk and have a kind heart and listening ear in response. Skipping ahead many years I eventually chose Social Work as my profession. I had several internships/jobs as a social worker, but my favorite was at the Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center. There I worked in many different capacities, to include training volunteers to work the crisis/suicide hotline, bereavement counseling with survivors of suicide in group and individual settings, and many other areas of crisis intervention and suicide prevention/intervention. I also had the opportunity to learn from an expert in suicidology about how post-vention can become the prevention for future suicides. I had the opportunity to respond with the LOSS(Local Outreach to Survivors of Suicide) Team which was similar to TIP in that we responded to the scene of suicides. We were able to offer emotional support to survivors immediately on-scene as well as provide resources for them to be able to follow up with grief counseling. While I went on to help people in many different ways in the following years, that always stood out to me as a unique and often “missing” helping opportunity.
To help someone in their worst moments of crisis or loss not only blesses the heart of the giver, but it is a blessing beyond comprehension for those experiencing the loss or crisis. How could I possibly know this? Because I have been on both sides of loss. My first pregnancy, a moment in time that should have been our happiest, ended in loss. Though I had helped many people in crisis I was unprepared for the moment I would call a nurseline bleeding only to be told callously that there was nothing that can be done to save my baby and “I need your social security number mam.” She was only doing her job. This I know, but I needed compassion in those moments. I needed compassion the following day when I walked into my doctors office to be greeted by a waiting room full of many happy expecting moms when I had lost my baby the night before, and then later when I went across to the lab to get bloodwork done to test hormone levels and the poor unknowing tech asked if I knew yet if I was having a boy or girl before she looked down to see the paperwork stating the reason for the bloodwork. I was in shock and despair that day, and though I realize that TIP responds to many calls that are way worse circumstances than this, that moment was my 9-11. That moment goes on to define how I see programs such a TIP making the ultimate difference in preventing a second injury and lessening the pain even for just a few moments, in what may seem to be small ways. If I had had a TIP volunteer by my side during the loss of my first baby, maybe he or she could have guided me gently to another waiting area or briefed the bloodwork technician prior to me walking in. Maybe he or she could have gone over with me the book my Dr handed me about “going home with empty hands” or maybe just handed me a tissue or a glass of water. Those seem like such small things, but those are the very things that are huge and mean the world in moments such as these.
Several years later, my husband and our 3 little blessings moved to Florida. , When someone mentioned TIP, I knew instantly that I wanted to be a part of that program. I contacted a TIP volunteer right away and found out that a training was beginning soon. Though we were still unpacking boxes and getting settled into a new area with 3 small children, my wonderful husband agreed that this was a great opportunity and he held the fort down throughout the course of training so I could get started right away. I fell in love with the program and have been with TIP ever since I graduated in April 2012. I have been on many different kinds of calls, everything from natural deaths and fire calls to suicides and homicides. But all of them have this in common. They have someone on-scene with that same look in their eyes that I know I must have had the night of my loss. I have been able to hold hands, get tissues, help with practical things, answer questions, reminisce, run interference in effort to protect from further trauma, serve as a liaison with emergency personnel on scene, make lists, provide resources and referrals, and I have had the opportunity to provide emotional first aid to people. Most importantly I have been able to show the love of Jesus to others in crucial moments.
I have 4 beautiful girls now and have had the opportunity to serve as a TIP volunteer, dispatcher and debriefer for 5 years. I could go on and on about my reasons for joining TIP and continuing with TIP, but it all boils down to my love for God's people. I love because He first loved me. Jesus says in 1 John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” I can not think of a better time or place than any one of our many TIP calls to show that kind of love to people. TIP is a valuable asset to our clients and our community. I am honored to be a small part of a program that makes a HUGE difference in the lives of people.