On a grey, damp Sunday afternoonPosted on 10th December 2015 by Sean de Podesta
Last Sunday I was walking through the Lanes lost in my own thoughts when I heard my name called out. I looked around and a woman waved to me. I did not recognise her immediately, but her bright wet weather gear made her a cheering presence in the gloomy dusk.
“Maggie*,” she explained. “One of your volunteers.”
And then I recognised her. We chatted for a while. Maggie was taking a break from her volunteering as Elizabeth*, the woman she had visited, had died in July at the age of 93. Over the two years they had known each other, Elizabeth had become not just Maggie’s friend, but a friend of her family. Each Sunday, she would have lunch with them, and she was also with them at Christmas. During Elizabeth’s final illness, Maggie visited her in hospital every day.
Maggie would have liked to do more volunteering, but her own mother in the North of England was getting older, so she was having to go up North every two weeks. Our conversation was brief, but it left a big impression on me. Three things stand out.
First, Maggie’s greeting me on a dull winter afternoon shocked me out of the gloom of my own thoughts; contact with people can do this.
Second, our Neighbourhood Care Scheme volunteers are not specialist service providers doing something to clients, but ordinary people with their own parents and children who are able to widen the embrace of their sympathies beyond their own families. Ordinary human stuff.
Finally, I was struck by something Maggie said about her relationship with Elizabeth: “It made a difference to her and it made a difference to us.” This echoes so much feedback we get from our volunteers and scheme members; the relationships we support are mutually beneficial.
So I went on my way. It was still only Sunday afternoon, but I felt warm inside and looked forward to getting to work the next day, and helping to connect more Maggies and Elizabeths.
* Names have been changed