I recently started a job at a call center. I answer phones and make outbound calls for radio stations, television evangelists, and telethon fundraisers. I’ve only worked about 24 hours in the last week and a half, but it has already been an adventurous term of employment.

The first time I answered the phone, I was lucky to get a very patient woman. She wanted to give $300 to some pastor on TV, whom she referred to in great detail for me, as if I could see him too. I couldn’t figure out how to bring up the donation form on the computer, so I put her on hold for about half an hour. That lovable woman stayed on the line to give her $300 to that guy on television. I was impressed at her determination, and disappointed at my uselessness.

The next day I had a late shift, and was still taking donations and other calls after 12 a.m. People generally want to give a little money, and then they ask you to pray for them. I think they hope their donations will make their prayers easier for God to hear.

It was hard to stay cheery – because “the customers can hear the smile in your voice!” they told us in training – with call after call of everybody and their momma having cancer and Alzheimer’s and a child addicted to marijuana and no money to buy food and a broken down car and a dead fiancé and a dead dog and a broken heart. Every call was a damn country song on crack. And after 10 p.m., everyone cries on the phone.

A one-handed widow called to pledge $10 a month. I wanted to tell her to hang up. Don’t give your money to these greedy, God-claiming jerkoffs. But she told me in her sweet old lady voice how she just shared the love of Jesus by cleaning people’s houses. Even with just one hand, she had to show love and good cheer somehow in the lives of others, and she didn’t have much money so she’d clean their houses for free. I wanted to cry. I took her donation and then prayed with her, “Thank you, God, for Rosie’s one hand, and thank you that she uses it for you.” I’ve had a hard time convincing myself I’m not a douche after that call.

Jorje (pronounced “Whore-hey” – I had to keep from laughing, because I’m immature and find stupid things funny) called for prayer for his sister Lupe (“Loo-pay,” haha) who is a prostitute on the streets of Los Angeles. She’s the “prodigal daughter” of his family, he said. We said a quick prayer for Loo-pay.

A guy called just before the end of my shift, around 12:30, with sobs between his words.

“My wife, she….” (sobs) “…I bought her a gym membership…” (sobs) “…and yesterday…” (sobs) “…she brought home her trainer.” (sobs)

Because I was sleepy and naïve, I was thinking, For dinner? For board games? Did you guys have fun? And I couldn’t figure out what he was crying for. But then I figured it out.

“Sir, can I have your first name, please?” Because we have to have a record of the call.

“…I’m so embarrassed…” (sobs) “…so embarrassed…” (sobs and more sobs)

“Uh… Oh. Sir. I’m so sorry. I…. can pray with you?”

“What’s—” (sobs) “—your name?” Most callers want a first name, so they know who their connection to the Lord Almighty is.

“My name is Meg, sir.” There was a long pause as he sniffled and took a big breath. I waited, feeling so sorry for this man. The empathy in me swelled up more than for anybody else who had called yet. Cancer, sure. Marijuana, yeah. But infidelity? That shizz hurts, man. I was ready to pray whole-heartedly with him.

In a clear and collected voice, poor Mr. Cheated-On said: “Does Meg like black cock?” There were no subsequent sobs.

I hung up and filed the record under “Obscene call.”

Turns out it’s not just delightful elderly women who call the prayer line. Stealing from old ladies and phone sex in the same night? And getting paid $9 an hour for it? Jesus save my soul.

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