Blog written by befriender, Vicky:
Like many, I had always loved the idea of volunteering and thought the sense of self-worth and giving must be very gratifying, not to mention the impact it would have for the charity! But also, like many, I had a job, a house to run, a husband, a child to juggle and no time. Throw in the dog walking and the extracurricular activities and my week has vanished!!
About 18 months ago there was a news item about loneliness and the elderly. I vividly remember having this overwhelming feeling of sadness for the person featured, thinking how dreadful to get to that time of life and not have a single soul to call on. Then that feeling turned to anger as I thought “how on earth, in this day and age, can someone end up in this predicament?”. With the birth of the internet and social media and a 24/7 lifestyle how is it possible for someone to be lonely? Little did I know!
Like many, I forgot about the news item and went about my life and work. I was working on a project to introduce CSR days in our business, Carley Consult Ltd. We wanted to actively encourage staff to take part in two days paid volunteering a year. Being one of the managers that helped instigate it, I had to put my money where my mouth was and volunteer myself! We received a list of charities and b:Friend was on there! I felt like it was fate!! And to cut a long story short, I met up with the charity, they introduced me to Dilys and I’ve (we’ve) never looked back.
I can’t deny I wasn’t nervous. The thought of meeting someone I didn’t know and striking up a conversation suddenly seemed like a huge challenge. Questions raced through my head too:
Would she like me?
Would I like her?
What would we talk about?
Mike, from b:Friend, came with me though for the first two sessions, but he needn’t have. It was soon clear that, despite the 55-year age gap, Dilys and I were going to be firm friends.
18 months later and Dilys and I are still great friends and she often comments about what a difference I have made to her life. Dilys has said our little trip to a coffee shop once gave her such a sense of freedom she rarely has nowadays. I feel so humble that having a cuppa tea and a chat can make such a difference to someone’s life and it’s me that’s doing that!
I almost feel a sense of guilt too, that something so little and insignificant such as having a drink and a chat, should make such a difference. It just shouldn’t. In my mind, no one should experience such extreme loneliness where it does make a difference.
I can give Dilys something to look forward to every week and break up the
monotony of her routine. I can bring a new sense of perspective to her life whilst putting the world to rights with the many things we do have in common. All by having a coffee and a chat!
I can’t articulate the feeling this gives me other than it’s a mixture of pride, self-worth and I’m humble in the knowledge knowing that I am making a difference to someone.
Family and friends have commented on how proud they are of me for volunteering. I don’t feel proud because I get as much out of volunteering as I give. It works both ways you know! The smile I get when Dilys opens the door to me is priceless.
There are times when I feel that life is too busy, and I don’t have time to visit Dilys. Then I realise that that one hour a week is everything to Dilys. I get to come home to family, play with my little boy, go out and do things. Dilys can’t do that. So, who am I to say I’m too busy? I’m not. I just prioritise what is important in my life and that one hour I give a week to make someone happy and less lonely is one of my main priorities in life because, god forgive, it might be me in 55 years’ time who is chronically lonely and in need of a friend.
If any of what I have said resonates with you then, please, find an hour a week, because I promise you the difference you will make will have an enormous impact in more ways than you can ever know.