I pleaded with my supervisor to extend the helpline hours on the evening when my helpline log listed only snap calls. This is the term we used on the helpline when someone called but hung up as soon as they heard a voice. It is not uncommon for helpline callers to make a few snap calls before building up the courage to talk.
I had received snap calls before but, on that Thursday evening, I’d only logged snap calls on my sheet and each one had lasted progressively longer than the last. I felt someone was getting closer and closer to reaching out for support and I wanted desperately to ensure we were still available until they made their breakthrough call that night.
I volunteered for two years on the helpline of Survive. Survive is a regional UK charity that provides support to adults who survived sexual abuse during their childhood years. The organisation began in 1990 as a female support group for women, registering as a charity in 1997 and, most recently, extending its services to support men over the last 10 years.
A decade has passed since I took my last call with Survive. I cannot put into words how much I learned during my time on the helpline but I will share that the lesson on true listening has never left me. It is a wonderful feeling to listen to someone without any intent except to understand about their life. It is a wonderful feeling to be heard in this way too.
I have donated £15 to Survive in honour of the 15 minutes my supervisor extended the helpline window on that day. After one more snap call, I did answer a call to someone who spoke to me. I’ll never know if it was the person who had made the snap calls but I’m reassured that we made a difference to one more life that night and that is still a difference.