On a normal day, in a normal world every phone call I receive is answered just like this “BRC this is Liz how can I help you?”. The person on the other end of the line is calling for help. They have tried everything they can to get the right Medicaid benefits for their client and it just is not working. On a normal day, in a normal world they are looking to us at the “help desk” to fix it.
But currently we are not dealing with normal days, or living in a normal world. Nation wide we are in the midst of a pandemic. COVID19 as they call it. It is serious and it is impacting all areas of our lives and impacting also the way we do business. Here in Michigan our local office eligibility specialists are the front line staff ensuring our Michigan residents get the needed food, medical, daycare, cash, state emergency relief assistance they desperately need. With the stay at home executive order for Michigan most of these “essential” employees have been issued VPNs and have swooped up their lap tops, monitors and have transitioned to working from home. Some are working at their kitchen tables with an uncomfortable chair. Some are working in their home office, which could have previously been their man cave, woman cave, or crafts room. Locations in their home that are safe, secure and private. But locations none the less that are not normal. Because nothing about our current lives are normal.
For myself and my fellow BRC help desk co workers our working environment has not change the good majority of us already worked from home. What has changed is the conversations that occur after the “BRC this is Liz how can I help you?”
On a normal day, in a normal world the conversation after my greeting to them would be structured around gathering information about the issue on the case they are working on and then finding a solution for them and getting their client the right Medicaid programs.
But again it is no longer a normal day, in a normal world and the conversation after my greeting while it still centers around gathering information and finding a solution for them it is different. It is a reality check. It is raw. It is real.
Examples of the raw and real:
Last Friday I was assisting a specialist in Wayne County we were wrapping up her call when she said “did you hear that?”.
I replied, “no”.
She replied “they told us we need to evacuate the building as someone was just here that was positive COVID19!”
That is the realness of the world we are in today. Things change in an instant. Things escalate quickly and we are doing our best to adapt to these changes. But it is hard!
I answered a call this week in which the caller selected the incorrect prompt. Our normal procedure is to transfer them to the correct prompt for assistance. I started explaining this to the specialist and she was on the brink of tears. With the little information I had gathered I knew I could be of assistance even though it was not my area. So instead of transferring the call I assisted her and resolved her issue. Part of what we have to do for each other in these strange times is be observant and sometimes help even when it is not our “area” or not our normal job or practice. Be a light in their darkness!
I could go on and on about other examples but I will leave you with this last one…
I was assisting a specialist from Oakland County, one who was still working in the field office as she was awaiting her VPN which would then allow her to move to the work from home environment. I try and do some small talk during my calls while I work on the case as this helps me connect to the caller and make it a more personal experience. I will ask them how their weekend was or how their day is going. On a normal day, in a normal world the responses are, well, normal. They talk about activities they did that weekend, how nice the weather was, what they plan to do that evening, etc.
On this phone call the specialist shared how one of their co workers tested positive for COVID19 last week and he passed away over the weekend. My heart was wrecked! But what came after that wrecked me even more. She explained how their office had contacted the property manager to request increased cleaning of the office and areas the co worker had been in and they were told they were 3 weeks out from those requested services being available. Not only was this office mourning the loss of a beloved co worker but they also were dealing with the reality that potentially the working environment they were currently in was potentially unsafe.
On a normal day, in a normal world they are looking to us at the “help desk” to fix it.
On a normal day, in a normal world, after “BRC this is Liz how can I help you?” normal things would occur. Solutions would be found. Normal conversations would be had.
Let us remember that while we are not functioning in normal days, or a normal world that we CAN spread kindness, hope, and cast a light in the darkness. A light that leads others to look for the hope that IS in our future.
Be safe, be strong, be smart! We will return to normal days and a normal world. But we must unite and each one do our part!
Be the light (Matthew 5:14)