If you want to live a more fulfilling life, become happier and positively affect the lives of others, then there are few better ways to accomplish those things than by doing charity work. Many studies have shown that we often feel the most elated after we have done something altruistic, and you can find that helping others brings a great sense of satisfaction and purpose as you feel useful and as though you’ve made a difference.
And as far as doing something charitable goes, joining the Samaritans can seem like an enticing option for many reasons. Not only will it enable you to actually interact directly with the people you’re helping, but it will also allow you to deal with common, everyday problems that you can probably relate to. Being a Samaritan means being there on the phone when someone needs you, and that’s an incredible gift to be able to give.
But it’s not without its downsides and there are some questions you need to ask yourself and some considerations you need to take into account before you make that commitment. Read on and we will take a look at those to help you decide if the Samaritans may be a good fit for you…
The first thing to consider is that the Samaritans will involve a time commitment from you that will of course mean you have less time for doing other things. Fortunately this time commitment is not huge and you only really need to do one shift a week if you’re pushed for time, but what you do need to consider is that every now and then these sessions will be during unsociable hours. If you work during the week then of course you can request that these shifts be at the weekend and that wish will be respected, but it’s still important to realise you will occasionally have to put in a late night – which will no doubt impact on your energy levels later in the week.
More than your time and energy though, being a Samaritan will be likely to drain you emotionally. This is of course the result of listening to people’s problems for hours and being unable really to help. Sometimes you will come away with an elated feeling of having helped people, but other times you will come away without closure, or feeling traumatised by what you heard.
Something that can make this harder still, is that you won’t be able to call the police or ambulance without the caller’s permission. That means that you won’t be able to prevent suicides or crimes, even though you might know that they’re occurring. Samaritans and Priests are actually the only two types of people who cannot act on what they hear. Your job is to listen to people’s problems and to provide a sympathetic and non-judgemental ear – so you need to ask yourself whether you’re going to be able to go home and switch off afterwards, or whether it’s going to haunt you.
Another point to bear in mind is that your life is going to continue to go on. You might be able to handle a suicide caller on a good day, but will you be able to when you’ve just lost your job or been dumped? Fortunately you can take time off of the Samaritans whenever you need it, and the organisation is very understanding about that as you might expect. However there will still be times when you are going to be on the receiving end already feeling a little fragile. Bear in mind too that you can’t even talk about these encounters afterwards – caller confidentiality is of upmost importance.
Another thing to bear in mind is that not every call you receive is going to be someone genuinely wanting help – and this can make your job even more difficult than it otherwise would be.
For instance, working for the Samaritans you will get a lot of ‘pest’ calls from people touching themselves while you’re on the phone which can obviously be very disturbing. You don’t have to listen to these callers and you will be taught how to deal with them, but that doesn’t stop it from being upsetting.
Additionally you will get prank callers who call just to waste your time (which won’t go appreciated when you have a busy day ahead) and you will get aggressive and abusive calls from people who just want to vent their anger at the world on someone.
If you understand all of this and you are still interested in becoming a Samaritan, then it might just be the right fit for your personality. Then again, you should still ask yourself a couple of questions to make sure that you’re going into it for the right reasons…
Questions to Ask Yourself
Are You the Right Kind of Person?
As I said, if you have survived the page above and still feel as though you’re up to the task then you’re probably at least emotionally hardy enough to become a Samaritan. That’s one thing you need to be able to do: to empathise and be sympathetic, but then to switch off again when you head home so that you aren’t constantly replaying conversations in your head/struggling to be able to get to sleep.
This is one of the major requirements for being a Samaritan. The other is being non-judgemental and having the ability to listen in the right way. This is something you will get training for, but it also requires you to be of the right disposition to begin with. Can you listen to someone tell you they raped somebody without letting your emotions show? Can you understand how someone might come to the decision that they want to end their life – without judging them for doing so?
If you are unsure how you feel about those questions, then the best bet is to apply for the Samaritans and find out. When you first get in touch you will be put through an interview process which will attempt to ascertain whether or not you have the right mindset, while at the same time making sure that you are fully informed about what you’re getting involved with. This should be able to give you a better inkling as to whether you are a good fit for the organisation or not and may well answer the question for you and take it out of your hands altogether.
What Will You Have to Sacrifice?
I mentioned the time commitment earlier, so now you have to ask yourself whether you can really afford to give up that time, and whether you have time for mentoring in the build-up too. It’s a great thing to want to help people, but you shouldn’t do that at the expense of your own happiness and fulfilment. Think realistically about how it’s going to affect your life, and only then decide whether or not you’re able to give up that time.
What Are You Hoping to Get Out of It?
Finally you need to ask why you’re interest in becoming a Samaritan to begin with, because there are plenty of motivations for doing so that aren’t to be encouraged. For instance, if you’re doing it to try and look good and impress people in your life, then you should forget it right now as you could end up hurting someone – donate money to a charity instead. Likewise, if you’re doing it in order to meet people then you’re probably barking up the wrong tree – you’re going to be on the phone most of the time and the other people there probably won’t be in your demographic. There are certainly easier ways to meet people. And if you’re doing it because you want to get some juicy gossip and you love eavesdropping into other people’s lives, then of course you should rethink the idea of being a Samaritan as you won’t be able to speak about it and you’ll probably find that listening to these kinds of problems is a lot less ‘enjoyable’ than you anticipated. Oh and while it will look good on your CV, it’s not really going to land you that mega job like they told you at school…
If however you want to be a Samaritan because you genuinely enjoy helping people, because you are sympathetic and feel like you have something to give and because you understand what it’s like to have no one to talk to; then you will be doing a great and rewarding thing that will develop you as a person.