Day 1 of 100 Days

Sarah Swaysland

Friday, 1st January, 2021

Happy New Year! The majority of people are glad to see the back of 2020, and who can blame them? It was one big shitter of a year and, as is usual, I have woken up on NYD with a sense of optimism and hope for the year to come. I'm not hung over, and I'm excited for what is coming up, because I have decided to take on the challenge of doing something for others for 100 days in a row. 100 Days of Volunteering.

Happy New Year! Today, I embarked upon my 100 Day journey by volunteering with Shout 85258 and Age UK Merton. It was a great start to my year, and I look forward to building on this over the next 100 Days.
I kicked off this challenge with a shift with the crisis text line Shout 85258 before moving on to my telephone friending duties. It's called 'telephone befriending' but I've been doing it for almost a year now, so I actually befriended my friend a long time ago.

What: Crisis text volunteering
Organisation: Shout 85258

Shout 85258 is a texting helpline for people who are struggling and need someone to talk to. I put myself forward to volunteer there way back last summer, because I saw that Prince William had done a bit of volunteering with them, and this peaked my interest.

I use an alias name when talking to texters because confidentiality is really important, and for some reason I find it easier to be impartial when I’m not being Sarah – I can remove myself from whatever situation I'm in and be there completely for whoever I'm talking to. That’s not to say that I’m changing character when I’m on this system, as I try to take what I’ve learned from my training into everyday life, but basically I want to be passionately dispassionate when talking to texters, because they really need it. Today, I had four text conversations and hit a major milestone in my Shout career – I’m now a Level 4 volunteer! That means I’ve had 50 conversations with people who are struggling to cope and I've hopefully helped them by being there to listen. I need to take another 50 conversations to reach level 5, which I imagine will happen at some point during this 100 Day Challenge... watch this space.

I usually listen to music on the record player when I do my Shout shifts – I have a list of safe space albums which take me somewhere calm which I can ignore if I’m concentrating because I know them so well. These albums are mostly (but not exclusively) quite old albums which I’ve been listening to for years, the type of album I’ll crack out whenever I’m feeling a bit stressed out in my everyday life. The list includes Nilsson Schmilsson by Harry Nilsson, All the Best by Paul McCartney, Michael Kiwanuka (any of his albums), Tapestry by Carole King… and loads more. You’ll get to know my music taste well over the next few months if you carry on reading this.

Today though, I did a morning shift and I had the Big Bash League (BBL) on in the background (Melbourne Renegades versus Sydney Thunder. Thunder won by seven runs – Duckworth Lewis Stern method). Cricket is also something that takes me to a safe space, and the BBL has been keeping me company every morning for the last few weeks. It doesn’t matter which format or which country, watching it, or having it in the background, just makes me feel quite calm, even when it gets exciting. I think it has something to do with the fact that it’s a fair weather sport and the sun is usually shining. Not today though, because it was partly rained-off, otherwise they wouldn’t have had to use DLS.

What: Telephone Befriending
Organisation: Age UK Merton

I was matched with Lady T at the beginning of the first lockdown, in early April 2020, and I’ve been speaking to her more or less every week since - I speak to her more than I speak to my brother. She lives locally to me, although we’ve never met because of Covid restrictions and we usually speak every Tuesday. We spoke today because I missed her on Tuesday, and when that happens I call her on the Friday, so I still get to speak to her.

At the moment, Lady T has mostly been catching-up on 'Top Gear' repeats (they're re-running all the Christmas specials at the mo) and it made sense to me that, given that she likes task-based shows, I should recommend 'The Repair Shop' to her. When I suggested this, she basically laughed me out of town because she's tried watching it and thinks it's shit. The 'Repair Shop' is probably (in my opinion) some of the best slow television you could possibly watch. It's 'How It's Made' - with purpose. I watch it in my kitchen when I'm cooking and there is no sport on. EVERYONE in that show is friendly and kind, and I think I connect with it because the people who are in it are using their incredible skills to do something nice for other people. Even though they're being paid and not doing it for free like me.

Rutger Bregman wrote in his recent book, Human Kind, about the very essence humanity being based on survival of the 'friendliest' - being connected to others and feeling like you are a part of something much bigger. This is something I fully subscribe to and it's probably why I'm doing what I'm doing. He backs it up by citing some really cool experiments about silver foxes, but I don't have time to dip into that right here and now.