Social Solidarity

Author: Brad Webb, Samaritans CEO

It’s Neighbour Day this week, and what better time to think about how to best keep ourselves connected to those around us.  

Neighbour Day comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic requires us to keep each other safe by practicing social distancing

Social distancing is about reducing the physical contact between you and other people. With less contact can come less connection. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Communities are already getting creative and banding together to show social solidarity for people around them who might want help to stay connected. You might have seen initiatives already like the #ViralKindness campaign that started in the UK. 

Neighbour Day is also a reminder of the Samaritans services that have become hubs for connection and community spirit.  

Samaritans Shops are more than just a shopping experience. For many people in the local community, our shops are a place to share a neighbourly chat with a friendly face.  

This week, we made the difficult decision to temporarily close the Samaritans Shops for the health and safety of our volunteers and the community. However, in the spirit of neighbourhoods, connection and community spirit, we wanted to share a bit more about them through the eyes of one of our dedicated volunteers, Marilyn. 

Marilyn spoke with us a few weeks ago about her experience volunteering and why she believes the shops is such a vital part of her local community. 

 It’s the same people coming in all the time, it’s terrific. They love coming in and knowing your name – they find a closeness in knowing your name. Then they feel comfortable telling you how they feel.   

We get to know everything about lots of people. They tell you a lot of the stuff going on in their life or their family, sometimes they’ve got no one to share it with. It’s good to hear their stories and what they’ve been doing. We all make the time to stop and have a chat.   

For some, we might be the only people that person has to chat to on that day. So we always make time. All the customers are so nice. 

One lady, about my age, her son passed away and so she comes in for a chat and for a hug and she can talk to all of us here and we can share her stories, it’s really nice, it’s a good thing.  

People collect things, like china. One girl collects t-shirts and comes in 3-4 times a week so we keep an eye out for shirts and show her the new ones when they come in.  

We’re great fashion advisors! We are always honest. We don’t want to sell things to people if it doesn’t suit them. They’re really happy about that, they thank us for telling the truth.  

A lot of people feel stuck in their house and if they can come out and have a chat to someone it makes us both feel good. I love talking, I’m a chatterbox!  

Being at home I was more isolated, but I’ve made friends here. It’s worked out really well for me, and I think a lot of us are the same. We’ve met other people it’s been really good. We all get on well.   

Even on our days off some of the girls will call in to the shops just to have a coffee. It’s nice to call in and say hello, if I’m in the area. This is like a second home. When I went on holidays I couldn’t wait to get back to see everyone.  

Marilyn will be back for a chat with a smile at our Mayfield Shop when it reopens.  

Keep an eye on our social media for when our Samaritans Shops will reopen: www.facebook.com/samaritansfoundation.  

And while heading out to your local op shop might not be possible right now, in the spirit of Neighbour Day you may choose to digitally reach out to those around you as we increase this social solidarity despite the distance.  

There are many ways to stay connected to our loved ones, our neighbours and our communities while we practice social distancing. 

Connecting digitally through a phone call, a video chat, or social media can be vital during periods where you are physically apart from your loved ones and communities. 

Do you have any interesting ways you are staying connected? Add a comment below for others to read and try.