A blogging friend – Kath ( see side bar) mentioned in her post that she was thinking of doing some voluntary work – giving something back she said - and it reminded me that for the first time in decades I am not doing any. Way back in the seventies I was at a low ebb spiritually, mentally and physically. Common sense told me to find some one in a worse state than I was and do something about it, so I became a Samaritan.
The Samaritans was started by Chad Varah - a very unusual man:-
“It had been 18 years since I made my debut in the ministry by burying a 14 year old girl who'd killed herself when her periods started, thinking it was VD. I'd done nothing about suicide, but got myself labelled a dirty old man at 25 by seizing every opportunity to teach young people about sex, and finding that it led youngsters to join my youth clubs and young couples to come for marriage preparation, and couples drifting apart to seek marriage guidance before it was invented.”
He started a sort of clinic at St Stephens, Walbrook. London where people who were desperate and often suicidal would drop in. He had volunteers who would make drinks and talk to the callers and he found that often this did the trick – a sympathetic listener was all they needed. So he started The Samaritans where phones were manned for 24 hours to help the needy.
I wonder if, in today’s climate, he would have been allowed to do the same again. Then - there would surely have been many more deaths by suicide. It certainly took my mind off my own problems and I continued to do it until I changed my life completely and went to live in another part of the country.
Here I found myself in a position not unlike the nameless heroine in ‘Rebecca’ with too much time on my hands.
My next voluntary job was working with children with cerebral palsy and Riding for the Disabled. This was enjoyable and rewarding and helped me to overcome the loneliness I felt at having left my familiar surroundings.
Then we retired to the South West and a shop was just opening to support the local Hospice so I worked there for a number of years. After running my own business with staff it amused me to be a simple shop assistant who made the coffee.
I did this for about five years and then was invited to read for Talking Newspaper where a team of readers read from the local newspaper, an engineer recorded it and volunteers distributed the tapes to people with sight problems - or the visually challenged – whatever is the correct description nowadays.
When Bluebell, my car, expired I looked on it as an omen and after having done about fifteen years decided to call it a day. By the way I am not looking for Brownie points; I have gained far more than I have given over the years.
Will I do something else? At the moment I am enjoying freedom from any commitment. I have a large family, house and garden and I choose not to have any help as our privacy is our luxury. Also it isn’t necessary to join an organisation to do useful work.
I am very pleased that one of my younger friends has been inspired to join Talking Newspaper and someone very close to me is becoming a Samaritan. If you have any leanings towards this sort of work – and I have only mentioned a fraction of what is available – jump in! You won’t regret it.