“Are you Rachel Stafford?” she asked me over the low roar of party conversation and festive music. When I nodded, the woman with a very familiar face said, “You are the emergency contact for half my preschool class.”
It wasn’t meant as a compliment, but as the words rolled off her tongue, I couldn’t help but smile. I felt the magnitude of its meaning in a way I hadn’t before.
Rachel Stafford, Emergency Contact
Although there are many esteemed titles in today’s society, I could not think of a higher honor at that moment. I’d filled out enough school registration forms to know the importance of those three blank lines. Who would pick up your children if you couldn’t? Who would you trust with life’s most precious gifts?
Knowing I was chosen to retrieve my friends’ pint-sized angels in times of trouble gave me an added confidence boost over the past few months. Whenever I failed miserably in other areas of my life, I reminded myself: I am an Emergency Contact. I may have more flaws and failures than I can count, but my friends know I would drop everything to retrieve their precious babies and love them as my own. That thought always gave me a lift.
But very recently the term Emergency Contact has come to mean even more.
You see, I now have in my possession two new school registration forms for each of my children. And for the first time in seven years, the blank emergency contact lines have taunted me. For the first time in seven years, I have no beloved names to write on those very important lines.
Due to my husband’s job, we are relocating to a new state when the school year ends. Luckily, I’ve had some time to process the thought of moving before telling my children because honestly, those emergency contact lines have been a great source of sadness. We are moving away from a beautiful collection of kind and loving people who are worthy of the honorable Emergency Contact title beside their names. Although my rational mind knows we will make new friends in our new community, trust is another thing. Trusting someone with your most precious gifts takes time.
A few weeks ago, it was time for the ‘For Sale’ sign to be placed in our yard. That morning our children were told of the news. Although a few tears slipped out of my eyes when the girls began to cry, I have come to feel truly excited about our new adventure and the wonderful new school they will be attending. With genuine happiness I told them about all the opportunities and blessings I foresee.
“But I won’t have any friends there. We don’t know anyone there,” my older daughter cried.
We have no emergency contacts, is what my heart heard her say. I swallowed hard. When we think of leaving it is not: can we take our favorite couch? It is not: how big is my new bedroom? It is not: does the neighborhood have a pool?
When we think of leaving, the faces of those we will desperately miss is what immediately comes to mind.
When it’s time to say goodbye, we are powerfully reminded that the most important things in life aren’t things.
And just like me, my children instantly felt the need for familiar faces—people who know us … people who love us … people we can call in times of trouble, even at one o’clock in the morning.
I got down on bended knee in front of my children with tear-streaked cheeks and shared my heart and my hopes. “I have cried many tears thinking about saying goodbye to our friends here too. But we will join a swim team. We will find a church. We will take walks every evening in our new neighborhood, and it won’t be long before we will make a friend or two,” I assured.
That weekend was rough for my children. Processing the thought of moving brought a roller coaster of emotions and lots of questions. At night, they had trouble sleeping.
“I can’t believe we’re moving,” my older daughter whispered tearfully when she came to my bed at midnight. “I don’t want to leave my friends, Mama.”
Although I was still half asleep, I managed to offer up a hopeful thought. “Remember, we’re moving to the same city that your best friend’s aunt lives. We have known Aunt Jane for years, and she adores you.”
My daughter thought about it for a minute and a tiny smile came to her lips. “Can we have Aunt Jane over for dinner when we get settled? Like on a Friday night could she just come and hang out with us?”
A Familiar face. Someone who knows us. Someone who loves us. Someone we can count on. Someone we can trust.
I could have kissed my child right then and there! My emergency contact lines weren’t empty after all! I didn’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before.
I had someone I could call in the middle of the night.
I had someone who would not be a total stranger if my children had to be picked up at school.
I had someone who knew us for many years.
I had someone I could trust with my most precious gifts.
I tucked my daughter back in bed and tiptoed downstairs. I pulled out my yellow folder that contained all our important relocation documents. The school registration forms were right on top.
I turned to the Emergency Contact page and wrote Jane’s name in big, bold letters on the top line and crawled into bed. I said a prayer of gratitude for the little things in life that definitely aren’t things, and they sure aren’t little. And then I slept soundly for the first time in months.
My friends, I am simply the messenger on this life-changing journey, and today I have this message to give:
If you are an Emergency Contact, thank you for being willing to show up no matter when … no matter where … no matter how inconvenient it is to be present in someone’s time of need. You are an Emergency Contact. Relish that honorable title and remind yourself of it when you fail in other areas of your life.
If you have an Emergency Contact, look at that name and take a moment to recognize his or her importance in your life. Better yet, take a moment to express your gratitude for the important role he or she plays. Take a moment to relish the fact that you have someone who knows you, loves you, and is there for you.
If you are in limbo, perhaps in between an old place and a new place, my hope is that you unexpectedly realize that despite thinking you are alone, you find that you really aren’t alone.
And finally, no matter what place in life you are in—settled or unsettled, known or unknown—may you have the courage to reach out your hand and say hello to someone who looks scared and uncertain.
Who knows? You might just be reaching out to my family.
And if it is us, we will smile with relief and be grateful for your unfamiliar hand.
Because whether it’s blank registration forms or homesick hearts, the kindness of one person is enough to fill the emptiest of spaces.
Emergency contacts come in many forms. I’d love to hear where you find comfort in times of uncertainty, sadness, and change. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights in the comment section below. The Hands Free Revolution community provides a beautiful resource for those who come here to find hope and feel less alone in their daily struggles and triumphs.
For those who are visiting this blog for the first time, I wrote a book that describes all the steps I took to let go of daily distraction, perfection, and pressure to “do it all.” Check out HANDS FREE MAMA, a New York Times Bestseller here.
Also, if you haven’t been to The Hands Free Shop in awhile, there are a few new items that serve as powerful visual reminders to live more & love more in the time we are given. I have been giving the gold foil Presence Pledge as birthday gifts to the special people in my life and their response has been so moving. Perhaps if you are looking for a meaningful holiday gift, you will find something in the shop. Thank you for your support!