I’d been up since 6 am preparing for a big presentation and as soon I got out of the last meeting of the day I had to get home and get my daughter to gymnastics in the city centre.
All I wanted to do was stare at a blank wall before going to bed. But I had a night shift! By midnight I had to be sitting in my local Samaritans branch, ready, willing and able to listen to callers.
Inside my head I was screaming ‘why did I think this was a good idea!
But by the time I sat down at the desk, hot tea in hand, things felt very different.
I made the effort to actively switch off after the working day and got some sleep. Then I started to focus on why I do this, the people who may have absolutely nowhere else to turn, particularly in the middle of the night. By the time I made it into our branch my mindset had shifted.
But I keep turning up for more than just altruism.
On the night in question, work was dominating my life. Charging from one thing to the next I was rarely thinking through the challenges I faced. Without the discipline imposed by the impending night shift I would almost certainly have churned everything over until finally I nodded off. Switching to an environment in which the day-to-day pressures of my life were unimportant gave me perspective and refreshed my capacity for creativity.
I’ve learnt a lot too. From those who’ve been a Samaritan far longer than me, from the new recruits I mentor and perhaps most importantly from the people who call the number or send us an email or text.
Much of what I’ve learnt can be directly transferred to my life in PR and communications. I’ve learnt the reward of directing all your energies on understanding another person from their perspective; the power of warmly received feedback; the motivating influence of a mutually supportive environment; and the personal pleasure of working hard to avoid judging anyone, colleagues and callers alike.
And of course there are the biscuits. There is always a plentiful supply of all sorts of lovely biscuits and on a good day there’s cake too!