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It had been a busy day at the San Jose, California police and fire communications center, and Keao Mai, a safety dispatcher, was glad to get home and relax. She was grateful that the 911 system was in place and she could help so many people every day. But having some down time, to relieve the inevitable stress generated by her job, was important too. Her roommate, Angela, a police dispatcher, was busy with chores, so Keao mixed up a batch of Christmas cookie dough, put it in to bake, and turned the television on to her favorite sitcom re-run. At last, peace and quiet.

She had just started to relax when the phone rang. Keao was tempted to ignore it. Something told her to pick it up instead.

The voice on the other end was frail, vague. "I--I think I'm going to shoot myself..." she said.

A possible suicide! Keao was instantly alert, fatigue forgotten. "Why would you want to do that?" She asked, keeping her voice casual as she had been trained to do on her job.

"No one understands..." the woman on the other end started to cry. "My husband..the kids..no one cares..."

The months leading up to the holidays often brought suicide calls, Keao knew. People became despondent when others around them appeared to be having so much fun. But how could she help this woman? She was at home on a phone with a cord, with no reinforcements--no fellow dispatchers to back her up, no transfer buttons or resource book or extra phone lines. Angela was in her bedroom, too far away to be summoned without alerting the caller. With a sinking heart, Keao realized that she was completely alone.

Well...not exactly alone. God was here, wasn't He? God, help me help her, Keao sent a prayer heavenward. "Why don't you tell me about it?" She asked softly. "Maybe I can help."

As Keao tapped a pencil loudly against a kitchen counter, hoping to attract Angela's attention, the weeping caller told a familiar story, one of loneliness, a longing for appreciation and love.. If people only knew how easy it was to care for one another, Keao thought. Just a hug, a word of forgiveness--it would make every day a little Christmas of its own. But this woman seemed intent on shooting herself. Several times, Keao changed the subject, hoping to calm the caller and get her telephone number. Her hands, gripping the receiver, turned sweaty. The Christmas cookies began to burn. God, help, she prayed. The caller couldn't take her own life! Keao was already forming a bond with her. "Where are you from?" She asked, just to keep the conversation flowing.

"Hilo, in Hawaii," the woman said.

Keao was astonished. "I'm from Hilo!" She exclaimed.

"You're Hawaiian? This is amazing!"

It was the opening Keao needed. "Look, why don't you give me your telephone number, just in case we get cut off? I'd like to call you back and talk more about Hilo. Maybe we'll have friends in common."

"Well..." The caller trusted Keao now. Slowly she recited her number.

Just then Angela wandered into the kitchen. Keao motioned frantically to the receiver, then handed the pad with the telephone number on it to Angela. Using a cell phone, Angela alerted a rescue unit, which sped to the caller's house. In just a few moments, Keao heard people talking on the other end of the phone, along with paramedics. Someone confiscated the gun, and led the woman out to a waiting ambulance. Someone else hung up the phone. Keao whispered a silent prayer of thanks. Maybe the woman would have a good Christmas after all. Perhaps Keao would follow through, and visit her.

It was a full day later when a question occurred to Keao, one that has yet to be answered. The woman claimed to have dialed 911 for help. How, then, did she reach the home telephone of a rescue worker from Hilo, who knew just what to do?

It was no coincidence, Kaeo knows. With God, nothing (not even crossed telephone wires) is impossible.

Joan Anderson Copyrighted by Joan Wester Anderson, used with permission. Originally appeared on the Where Angels Walk website, http://joanwanderson.com

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