“The phone rings, the adrenalin starts to flow. What needs to be said or not said? The caller tells her story. She is in great distress. The circumstances of her life would make your blood boil. Desperation, abuse, thoughts of suicide, feelings of despair, lack of self worth, the desire to be free from her burden, the list goes on. What can I say? I feel the need to get on a white charger and rescue her. Something must be done and done quickly.
But no, that is not the Samaritan way. I cannot judge, I must listen with empathy and not jump to conclusions. She knows herself much better than that. I cannot jump in and fill the silences which come naturally. I can help her express her feelings and allow her to rant. I can tell her that she was being very brave, just picking up the phone and speaking to me.
I ask her if she is planning to kill herself tonight and if she has a plan; I am very relieved when she says she has thought about it but is not planning anything tonight. She says she has confided in me and has told me things that she has never mentioned to anyone else before. The line goes quiet. I ask her how she is feeling. She says she is feeling much better but could I stay on the phone a little while longer. We share the silence, neither of us needing to talk but knowing that there is someone on the other end of the phone. Eventually she says that she is tired and will go to bed. I wish her pleasant dreams.
We always want to tell people about ourselves. Most of us wait until we have the opportunity to put in our two cents worth. As a Samaritan I have learned to listen, really listen.”