Our organization is extremely selective when it comes to who we decide to volunteer with us. We want to make sure our team is built with people who are equipped to understand the tumultuous curve balls that life can throw at us. This requires several things: an open mind, a rich life experience, a non-judgmental heart, and a great listening ear. Through this “Interview With A Volunteer” project, we have learned so many incredible things about the volunteers we speak with every day. It just affirms the purpose of Listen.One – truly getting to know somebody for who they are, without any agenda, is truly rewarding. The volunteers who have decided to be part of this interview experience are encouraging Sharers to be more open. After all, as we said in our last interview, sharing is the first step to conquering loneliness.
Ric is 66 years old, and truly one of the kindest people in the world. When I asked him if there was a fun fact about his life that he wanted people to know, he answered right away.
“I am a seventh-generation Oregonian and I come from a pioneer family. My seventh great grandfather was the territorial governor of Oregon. There is even a monument and everything.”
Ric used to live in Portland, Oregon for 40 years, then Seattle for 17 years, and finally Los Angeles for three years. He and his wife moved to Arizona about 5 years ago. Ric loves history, and his primary hobby is reading. “I am always reading something.” He loves nonfiction, historical biographies, and presidential history. His bucket list is to see every presidential museum in the US. He has even been to the White House.
Ric loves traveling in general, but he has taken a break over the last few years. Eventually, he wants to fly to Florida and then drive to Maine to see more of the East Coast. He has been to about 40 of the states, but even more interesting, he has been to what he describes as “the most difficult places to live, in the world.”
Before I asked him to elaborate on that – I wanted to know what his primary job was. Ric worked for a non-profit organization that sends workers out to the most vulnerable peoples, in the most difficult places on earth. They are sent to live among these people to help with physical as well as spiritual needs. He told me that he has traveled to many countries to help understand the needs of the poor and spiritually hungry people. Especially those people displaced by war. Now, Ric mobilizes and trains others to go live among and help these people.
I asked him what inspired him to do something that could potentially be so dangerous. It isn’t a safe thing to enter any country directly in a warzone, but he felt that it was his responsibility to complete this mission.
“When I discovered that there are still billions of people throughout the world living in deep poverty and hopelessness, I felt it was my responsibility to do my part in helping them.”
When he was in Iraq, he stayed just a few miles from the Isis headquarters. He could hear bombs and see smoke. He was always driving through checkpoints, staying alert, and seeing people with submachine guns were everywhere. Ric has had the chance to travel to Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Thailand, Guatemala, Japan, China — and more places than he could name. He always loved traveling so it was a great experience — even with the anxiety of traveling to such a different place.
Before Ric worked with this organization, he worked in the oil industry for 30 years. He built and maintained car washes, convenience stores, and anything that had to do with service stations. His main duties included managing a team of contractors and other workers.
“I was more like the brains of the operation. I led the team and we got the job done well.”
Since working in the oil industry is so different than counseling others on the gospel, I asked Ric when that started in his life.
“I got into pastoral counseling in about 2003-04. I helped pastor a small church as well. I did this on the side, I was still working full-time. I was inspired to be active in the community because I’ve always had the heart to help people — to discipline people and help them love Jesus.”
His passion was obvious in his tone and demeanor during the interview. I felt like there was more to it. It seemed like Ric was born with this desire to help others, so I couldn’t help but ask what his childhood was like.
“I had a great childhood with an older brother and younger sister. I had two parents, and we just had a really wonderful relationship. Both of my parents were very involved in all of my siblings’ lives… but the one difficult thing I faced was that I suffered from really awful panic attacks.”
When I asked Ric if his siblings suffered from panic attacks as well, he said no. I asked him why he was having them (or, why he thought he was having them), and he said:
“I had no real reason as to why I was having this problem, and it really worried my parents. It was a debilitating part of my life, but I was still able to have lots of friends and a great social life. Especially in High School.”
My next question was, “How did you gain control over your panic attacks enough to live your life?”
He said: “I was able to seek help for it when I got older. It wasn’t until after I was married. I realized it was getting to the point where he had to address it. This is how I first got into counseling. I wanted to help other people.”
A Listen.One – we have several campaigns that focus on loneliness faced by potentially vulnerable populations. Since Ric had traveled the world and met so many different people, I had to wonder if he felt more strongly toward one campaign than the other. For example – one would think that refugees and international students would be the main campaigns that drew Ric into volunteering with us. When I asked him if there was a specific campaign he identified with, he gave me an answer that was much more simple than I had anticipated.
“With the big picture, I am just interested in people. I think they are fascinating and I love to listen to them and work with them through their issues. I want to offer a new perspective to show them they can make it through their problems.”
I asked him what he meant by that.
“For example, I have had experience with unemployment [15 ½ months was the longest period] when we had two young kids. In general, I have a lot of life experience that I am happy to share with anyone struggling in a non-judgmental environment.”
He went on to say: “I remember how hard it was to figure it out. I remember the general experience of being alone with no one to talk to.”
Ric is interested in helping people who are facing the human experience of loneliness. This includes everyone. When he replied, I smiled because his answer felt true. I am 25 years old, and Ric is 66. Through this interview, he also got to know me and the things I have gone through and still struggle with. His replies were empathetic without being overbearing. I felt truly heard and understood, and even more importantly, I felt safe.
I think Ric knows that he has this superpower. Still – I asked – “Why did you decide to become a Listener?”
He walked me through it.
“I had known Dave [Listen.One Founder] for a little bit, around a year, before I decided to become a Listener. We just really clicked when we met. But then a lot of time passed before we reconnected.
I met Dave at a neighborhood party and he said we should get lunch sometime. I thought he was being polite, but I really did want to get to know him better. A lot of time passed. Then, one day, Dave texted me to ask if I wanted to get lunch. We went out and started talking about Listen.One. I was blown away. Right away, I said ‘I would absolutely want to be a Listener!’”
Ric said he’s a people person who loves to love. “Just the whole idea of hopefully being able to help somebody – even if it’s just one person. To help somebody is not a job – it is a duty.”
To wrap up our interview, I asked Ric what the most challenging part of being a Listener is for him. He listed the challenges:
“Well, number one, the time it takes for the Sharer to really open up and feel comfortable to share their real reason for reaching out can be hard to get to. That is human nature, when you don’t know a person very well you want to be safe. So asking a lot of questions is what you need to do to really learn. Once you have that information, you can figure out how to help that person.”
“And number two, sometimes my conversations are really short-lived. A lot of people I reach back out to don’t reply, and I want to help.”
This is a common thing that happens with our Sharers. A lot of people text us asking for someone to talk to, and then don’t reply to our welcome message.
If you are a Sharer and you are reading this – there is no major commitment with our free service. It is perfectly fine to text us and ask for a Listener, and then decide to opt out. We just want you to know that we are here for you when and if you do decide to reach back out.
“The best part about being a Listener – I go back to the same theme. I just want to help somebody. I always feel so badly when someone is so sad or trapped, or alone and hopeless, and they can’t seem to get out of that. I feel like if I can just share a few words to help, that maybe it can help them get out of that. I don’t want people to feel hopeless.”
My final question to Ric was, “What do you want people to know about you?”
“[When I am talking with you,] I am genuinely interested in you. This is not just a job, not something that I do to fill my time. I don’t do it because of my education. I am really interested in people.”
Ric’s last statement in this interview really warmed my heart. It just proved Ric’s genuineness all over again. Remember: Ric is an avid reader. Think before you read this last sentence. What do readers love?
“I am so interested in people because everybody has a story, and I love stories. Everybody has something that is interesting whether they think so or not. You may be 80 years old and never left your hometown, but you have interesting things to share.”