Guest Blogger Sarah Raymond: Volunteering to Listen

CONTACT Helpline is primarily run by volunteers. In the last two months at my job, I have met a few of them, and they are amazing.

When volunteering comes up in conversations, usually the word brings up the image of soup kitchens, setting up for events, or maybe sweating while building shelves.

The volunteers at CONTACT are unique because they commit to a few hours per month to talk to people who are either in need of a specific resource or a listening ear. It is not easy to hear about difficult situations without knowing if you actually helped that person, which is part of why recruiting new volunteers is difficult.

It’s also difficult because we seldom truly listen (this is not a new or millennial thing, solely brought on by technology). We do hear (for the most part), but we do not always put our full concentration on listening. It is a challenge to listen as we may space out or get excited and/or nervous about how we should respond.

In a way, answering the phones for CONTACT is easier than everyday conversations because we have restrictions on what we can say. In a “normal” conversation, we can technically say anything that comes to mind. Volunteering has taught me to hold back interruptions and resist the temptation to relate a story that may not help at all.

So, my challenge to you (whether or not you actually volunteer on a helpline) is to volunteer to listen.

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