Keeping Reality Real
It seems like everywhere you look these days, there are endless examples of society's fixation on either denying or augmenting reality.
Magazines are full of celebs who have been airbrushed beyond recognition. X Factor puts contestants' voices through auto-tune to address suspect intonation (or "singing flat" as we peasants call it). Our only real experience of suffering comes from watching it all on our smartphones, sat on the sofa drinking coffee. Yes, from Saddam Hussein's death to Johnny Knoxville's latest goolie-crunching exploit, it's all there. Reality from a safe distance.
That's why volunteering has been an important part of my life. It keeps me grounded. It takes me out of my clean, tidy* everyday life and gives me first-hand experience and understanding of the problems faced by the more vulnerable members of society. I've helped people tackle issues, often not as an expert, but just as someone who is independent and imbued with a modicum of common sense and a strong work ethic.
*with the obvious exception of my desk, which is an absolute disgrace.
I was a Samaritan for four years. Sometimes I would support a one-off caller who had reached a short term crisis point in their lives - who was even suicidal - and play a pivotal part in helping them through that crisis.
But what I remember most clearly is the unremitting everyday grind of the single mum struggling to feed her kids, who had no-one to turn to for emotional support and encouragement; and the isolated pensioner who would go days without seeing another human being or receiving a call from an over-busy relative. Their suffocating isolation really brought home how trivial some of my every day challenges really were, and what a lifeline the Samaritans provided.
So... take a moment to think about those you know. Is there a family member you haven't caught up with for a while? Do you have a friend who is feeling lonely or isolated? Pick up your phone. Give them a call or send them a text to let them know they are in your thoughts. It will make their day.
And don't just do it because it is Christmas - put a few dates in your diary for 2012 and reconnect with them properly. It's the best New Year's resolution you could make.
First posted on
16th December 2011
By Neil Goulder