I work as a Samaritan. No big deal. I give a couple of hours a week of my time for, among other things, some conversation and to get to hang out with people I wouldn’t normally mingle with, in the other Samaritans. The people who call up are another matter. They are why we are there. It is very easy to pass these people off variously as “damaged goods”, “the left behind”, “the <insert taunt here>”. I have not been a Samaritan for long, but being a part of this has already taught me quite a lot about, among other things, learning to listen, and learning not to judge. Some of the things that total strangers tell you are pretty intense tales, and your job is to listen, take it all on boards, and try and help where you can. But no offering advice. Thats part of the rules. Sometimes I find myself straining like a dog on a leash to tell them what to do, but I dont. The real skill in this job is guiding the caller to make their own mind up and getting them to make their own decisions. I really think that me just saying “Do this” and “Don’t do that!” will go in one ear and not hang around long before heading out the other.
The simple things that so many of us take for granted – love, friendship and the trust of other people are things that are not experienced by some. They don’t even get to first base with some of this stuff. So for someone like me – this is a learning curve into the lives of other people, not that I pry – but there are a lot of people out there who just want to be listened to. Not because they have much to say, but because they have no one to say too much to. Some are mental health patients, Schizophrenics mainly, people who if you can jump onto their wavelength, which lengthens and shortens by the second, I find myself laughing along with them, they know that something is wrong, but maybe they appreciate someone not shutting them down, someone who takes some pleasure in not judging them and instead can laugh with them and not at them.
I find myself frustrated with some of the regular callers. I find myself thinking “Cant you just have a better attitude? Cant you just fucking “get it”?”
Realising that the answer is no for so many of these people is both troubling and it plants you firmly in your spot – because you realise how firmly planted many of the people calling in are wedged in theirs. You want to try and offer solutions. Me – I am successful person, why not spread the good fortune… but thats like talking a different language to them. Someone who is suicidal doesn’t need a pep talk. They need someone who is prepared to talk to them on their level, about anything they choose. And you know what – sometimes, something as simple (and difficult…) as that, can turn the tide. Maybe only for a while, sometimes we’re not of any help, but in a world that rushes to find solutions to every problem, stopping and talking to people about their concerns is almost brushed off, when that can be the one thing that actually does help. But hey – I don’t know, this is not “Save the world”, we’re not curing cancer or anything here. We’re just listening to people at their wits ends. And hoping that this somehow helps.
Even in a role like this where its your job to try and help people, you gradually understand that you have less than a 1% say in what is going on. You can be a sounding board, but thats all. Just listen, lighten the load a bit, offer support, and realise you wont be fixing anything. Not directly. Some people are placed in holes they will never get out of. To be able to speak to those people, remind them their holes are sometimes not so different from other people’s holes, or when they are, remind them that there are people out there prepared to listen to them. I would like to hope that this helps.
We want to build strong people. Every society does. We do not do this by shutting out the weak. We need to accept those people, help them as much as we can, do not ignore them – learning to accept them can teach us a huge amount about things we overlook in modern society – trust, straightfowardness and an understanding that the world is the way it is, not necessarily the way we want it to be.