Yesterday morning I answered the telephone and a woman said “I’m trying to find a Befriender – do you still do this?” I asked whether she had the wrong number and she explained that she had found us on the internet connected to a Mental Health Befriending Service in London but she thought it was now closed down. It transpired that the connection was only that we had provided a training course to them under the Michael John Murphy Bursary some years earlier.
I heard the distress in her voice, so I explained this and stayed with her “Have you tried other services – what is it you need?”. She answered: “I haven’t seen a soul for weeks, I have PSTD and I just want to talk with someone – I tried to talking to the cat but am a bit worried that if I don’t find a human being soon that I will end up believing the cat is answering me!”.
I asked what services she had tried and she recounted various disconnected telephone numbers and others that had just rang out “I think they’re all gone now….” she said. That phrase alone “I think they’re all gone now….” brought a sadness sweeping over me – she was right, in the search for the Big Society, we seem to have ditched the Big Services we already had.
I asked the caller to stay with me on the main phone, while I researched for her and and as I scrolled down the list of services on the internet with one hand and telephoned them with the other, all to no avail, I came across The Salvation Army .”Ah”, I said, “What about the Salvation Army, shall I try these for you?”. She was excited, “Oh, I’ve never met one of them but they seem nice people don’t they?”.
I called the listed number and it answered after two rings, I explained my caller’s dilemma and was given the direct mobile number of the area Salvation Army cleric. I called him and explained the situation and this was his response, verbatim: “I am so sorry to hear that your caller is in distress. My wife and I are new to the area and we do plan to set up a Befriending Service but in the meantime I am visiting any vulnerable person who might need us. Please do give your caller my number and I will arrange a time to see her“. I then babbled on about how wonderful it was to hear that and he says “We are all God’s instruments and I am happy to be of help in any way“. I don’t practice a religion but I was moved by his sincerity and kindess.
I said to my caller “Did you hear that conversation?” she confirmed that she had heard my side of it “Can I have a Befriender did they say?”.
Oh yes, she can have a Befriender.
This was my only encounter with the Salvation Army and I know which charity will be getting my donations from now on. Hallelujah!