No, it's not a joke - it's a true story and repeated every week in Kettering and 200 other branches in the country. The story is simply about a very ordinary volunteer called Sam, who offers to give up a few hours each week to go into the centre at Kettering and sit in a nice comfortable seat with other colleagues in a quiet room and just wait by the telephones.
It is impossible to predict the calls. For no obvious reason, there are times when the phones hardly ring but other times can be very busy.
Sometimes they are there for a few hours in the early morning, sometimes in the middle of the day or evening, but occasionally in the middle of the night when most of us are asleep. Who else can you talk to before the sun rises? Even if you close your eyes, the worries you have at that time of day, can appear like the size of a mountain.
Sam usually has plenty of tea and coffee or cool drinks and often shares a little bit of personal news and chat with the other volunteers that are on duty at the same time. They come from many different backgrounds and have lots of interests. Some are young, some are retired, some have very busy but flexible lives, but they share the same wish to give up some of their time to help and care for others and they have been trained to really listen to those who may telephone.
Sometimes during the daytime, a bell rings and Sam goes to answer the door to a visitor who may prefer to come in and sit down in a quiet room and talk about the things they are trying to deal with. It could be about relationships, bereavement, emotional or financial problems. Visitors are often grateful for the opportunity to sit down with someone who is not involved and has time to listen to their problems.
Sam never judges and all that is said remains confidential. Perhaps for the very first time, the visitor is able to talk about their feelings and can start to see their situation more clearly. It has been known for a caller to begin to work out for themselves what their alternatives may be and start thinking about their future possibilities.
The same happens for those on the telephone and also for one of Sam's colleagues called Jo , who is one of the volunteers answering the emails that some people prefer to send. Sam often helps Jo with the reply and for those who may want to send an old fashioned letter, Chris is usually the one who writes back.
Sam and the other volunteers are not expected to have all the answers - they often don't - they have no magic wand - they do not give advice - but they do have a lot of patience and understanding through their regular training and because they listen very carefully, it can sometimes help callers when they are able to talk about their feelings.
Occasionally, Sam may give up a few extra hours to work in schools, and also talk to various group meetings about the work of Samaritans. Volunteers are very proud to talk about the roots of the organisation which actually originated in London. There are other colleagues who help with publicity, administration, and fundraising, recruitment and training.
At the end of a few hours, Sam goes home to get on with, what may be called a normal life, having been there to give a little time for those who needed to talk in confidence about their own personal worries.
If you ever feel the need to talk.....