Sharing stories

Radio can be a lonely job.

Often by the time I get to work I only see one face before taking over the studio.

Sometimes my cohosts are unavailable; they’re all volunteers, bless them.

Sometimes I don’t have any interviews lined up, or prizes to offer my listeners in exchange for a phone call, and sometimes my show lines up with the season finale of some reality show with a greater audience than I’ve ever pulled.

Sometimes all of these happen on the one night and I am left by myself for three hours in the studio. One hour pressing buttons and another two hours talking to the microphone AND pressing buttons. Nights like these make it hard to feel connected to my audience, to feel that there’s someone out there listening and wanting me to keep talking.

All my life I have had occupations where there is almost immediate return on feedback. It’s a coffee consumed entirely, a stack of papers neatly sorted, a HD on a test, a wholesome conversation, or a straightforward pat on the back. All other occupations I have indulged in so far have a product; something I can put in my hand or my heart at the end of the day and say “I made/did that”. I’ve been finding radio isn’t like that at all.

I started out as a volunteer, announcing once a week for fun, something new and different to try. When I progressed to being a producer/host and it being my job, well, things changed a little. I started to realise just how different this would be to everything else I had done. On those nights where I couldn’t be sure that someone was listening, I felt uneasy.

The surveys said someone (several people) was listening, but how could I be sure? Some nights the unease spread to anxiety, and would wonder does anybody care what I say?

I have recently started my maternity leave from work. I started early and so unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to lead up to leaving on-air. I simply announced one night that this was my final show for a few months. The following Monday I was greeted by a lovely email passed along by a colleague:
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My faithful listener, Mr. G from –Vale is correct; he is not in my demographic (15-25 year olds). But I immediately recognised him from this email. During an appeal last year (community radio stations are funded primarily by listeners), he responded to my call out to meet a target before the end of my show. He told us of his model railway and how he listens every night. I didn’t have the chance to speak to him personally that night, but his story had stayed with me for the last 6 months anyway.

I have often thought of Mr. G’s trains on my lonesome evenings, and it warms my heart to know that I’ve been there as he has also built a pond and a waterfall. I wonder what it looks like, I wonder why he is building it, and I wonder if I will ever get to see it.

Around a year ago I began a unit in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), and I was working in an environment where I engaged in pastoral conversations with people from all walks of life. They would come to the space to talk, to meditate on their thoughts, and to be valued in ways that they weren’t always valued outside those walls. I am glad and humbled that those skills have not been diminished as I work in a radically different ministry.

In CPE I learned that the sharing of one’s story can be transformational for the teller and the receiver, that there is a special wholeness that can come about in the exchange itself. I now know that we need not be face-to-face for this to happen; as my story goes out on the airwaves, I receive just as much in return. Mr. G and his waterfall receives and gives, just in a different way to how I expected.

Thank you, Mr. G, and all my faithful and sporadic listeners for sharing your lives with me. What a year it has been for us!

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