“It gives me a reason to get up in the morning, otherwise I’d have no-one to talk to”
“It gives me a reason to get up in the morning, otherwise I’d have no-one to talk to.” was the answer I received from an older lady to my question; “why do you come to the lunch club?” She was a member of a lunch club I was involved in some years ago.
“They saved my life.” was the answer I received when I asked a 12 year old boy who’d been supported by a teenage mentor.
“You’re the first person I have spoken to since you visited me three months ago” was the stark words of an old woman I visited when I worked for the Church. I had asked her how she was.
The gift of time, of listening, of helping others feel they matter is easier to give than you’d think. Simply by being present and spending time with someone for a while is one of the most valuable gifts we can give.
A 2015 Scottish Parliamentary commission on Social isolation concluded that becoming socially isolated can be as “damaging to your health as poverty” It led to a Scottish Government commitment to produce a National Social Isolation Strategy and a fund to support work in reducing social isolation.
We are not independent beings. There are a few people who can live without (or at least minimal) contact with others. Some religious people use solitude to prepare themselves for their chosen life, but it is to prepare themselves to be part of society.
Our individuality and our identity is shaped by our relationships. Our sense of who we are, our desire to feel meaningful and to have a purpose in our lives are at the core of our well-being and health. It is in our connectedness to others that we connect with who we are.
That’s why a few hours a month befriending can literally save a life. Cyrenians OPAL (Older People, Active Lives) service in West Lothian and our new Golden Years’ service in Edinburgh are driven by that understanding of the need for connectedness at the heart of our well-being. We are looking for more volunteers who’d be willing to spend time with an older person and help them with their community. We know it works and we want to more of it.
And it’s a two way street. One of the volunteers at the lunch club I mentioned is 97! She says she loves “helping the old folk”! But she also says it helps her stay fit too. All our befrienders would stay the same. Their own sense of connectedness, their own well-being is nurtured and grown by the time they spend with the person they are befriending. It is a delightful win- win, a gift given and received that is so valuable that money could never buy it.
Sign up to volunteer at OPAL (West Lothian) or Golden Years (Edinburgh).