I first heard about the Compassionate Neighbours initiative when Heather Richardson from St Christopher’s visited my church, Christ Church Gipsy Hill, to give a talk about Compassionate Neighbours.
I had recently retired from a long and very happy career in nursing. Having heard what was said about Compassionate Neighbours, I was interested in exploring and being involved, so I booked onto the training. It was a plus for me as it gave me the opportunity to meet people from different walks of life with similar interests. The training days were relaxed and interesting.
A few months later, in April 2018, I was matched with a Neighbour. My Neighbour is a 94-year-old delightful lady who lives alone. She is partially deaf, partially blind and can get very lonely.
I enjoy my weekly visits to my Neighbour and I know she looks forward to me coming over
I enjoy my weekly visits to my Neighbour and I know she looks forward to me coming over. We enjoy our coffee and chats and always have something to talk about. In fact, we never stop talking and sharing our stories! I learned that she was a police officer during the war, and I find her stories about wartime interesting. As Andy Rooney said, ‘The best classroom in the world is at the feet of the elderly.’
Once, I overheard her telephone conversation. I believe the caller asked her what we talk about and she said “we have lots to talk about and put the world to right.” She then turned to me a smiled. On one visit she was fumbling and not able to express herself. She said to me that days go by without her talking to anyone and she worries she will forget her ability to speak. It’s so sad; there are so many people like her in our communities.
Ageing has its problems, but being physically, mentally or terminally ill or disabled can make it difficult to cope with life. On top of that, if they are lonely, it makes the effect of the illness 10x worse.
Today in our society, the elderly and vulnerable are often targeted by imposters and undesirable people who rob, steal and often hurt them. This only adds to their fear and loneliness; they are often afraid to open their doors or go outside.
I know most of us in our daily lives offer a helping hand to family, friends, neighbours and sometimes strangers, but visiting someone in their home has many challenges. Doing this as a Compassionate Neighbour under the umbrella of St Christopher’s Hospice gives you the feeling of confidence and clarity. The person you visit is also reassured that you are vetted and can not cause any harm to them.
Being a Compassionate Neighbour gives me the opportunity to meet new friends, attend meetings, discuss difficulties or any problems, enjoy coffee and sometimes lunch. More importantly I gain the priceless satisfaction in adding a little happiness to meet the basic need of another person.
I learnt a rhyme when I was little which I think applies to Compassionate Neighbours: ‘Time to be happy is now; Place to be happy is here; The way to be happy is to make others happy and we will have a Heaven down here.’