Forty years of staying on the line

Forty years is a major milestone. For humans and for organisations. To span four decades mean you span almost two generations of change. To span four decades in Ireland means you span almost a hundred years of attitudinal change.

Six years ago, the Advertiser turned forty and we marked it with a souvenir magazine that spanned the forty years of change in Galway — it covered a vast array from an era in which the institutions in Ireland were dominant, then discredited and the subsequent impact this had on the psyche of the country and the people within.

In some sense those changes are the same as those experienced by the Galway Samaritans which turns 40 this weekend. The town is now a busier place, people assume they have busier lives, and with busy lives comes clutter and exclusion and loneliness and fear and anxiety. And when you throw all of this into the melting pot of the collective psyches, the brew it produces is that of a desire for help.

What defined success for us forty years ago is very different to what we have craved in the interim. The expansion of choices from having but a few to having possibly everything has played puck with our heads. Mental illness is more commonplace than the flu, yet we all try just to shake it off, to run it off, to forget it off, to drink it off.

Loneliness too is more commonplace. Forty years ago, we called on people unexpected. if you called on your friends without notice now, they’d panic, and feel they have to change and wonder why the hell you didn’t text when you were ten miles away, and then ten minutes away, and then at the door.

So people feel that although there has been progression, there is actually often less choice because your choices are defined for you.

We are a society that is becoming less spontanopus even though we feel we have more control than ever, when in reality we probably have less.

And then there is Galway — A river runs through it, a lake on one end and the sea on the next, so in one sense Galway feels like a series of giant lily leaves and we are but tadpoles moving upon them. Hopping from one to another, craving acceptance or entry to the other, ever moving but feeling you’re standing still.

Our city is a wonderful wonderful place. But for many there is disappointment and exclusion. The feeling you get when you don’t feel part of the ‘set’ in Galway is painful.

For four decades the one constant in all of this has been the Samaritans. Its director William Browne has asked me to allow him the forum to thank you all for supporting their work over the past four decades. No doubt, the Samaritans will celebrate a centenary because there will always be a need for a comforting ear or shoulder. There will always be a a pain in our psyches that makes us want others. To want us.

There are many organisations now that help share the load of the Samaritans, but it is they who provide the round the clock presence.

This weekend Galway Samaritans will mark its 40th anniversary. Mr Browne wishes to take this opportunity to thank the people of Galway for supporting the work of Samaritans since 1976. “Your support has meant that Samaritans volunteers have been at the end of the phone providing emotional support for 40 years,” he says.

They will mark their anniversary with a special day of events in Eyre Square from 10am – 8 pm this Saturday (April 30 ). The day will commence with an address from Mayor Fahy and one of its founder members. Other events include a cyclathon, guest speakers, a photo exhibition and a light show in the evening. Light refreshments will be available. You are most welcome to join in on the day. Further information is available by visiting www.sams40.com

While they mark the past, they are also looking to the future. Their building at 14 Nuns Island is currently undergoing necessary refurbishment and so they are temporarily located at 12 Dock Street. The redeveloped building at Nuns Island will enable them offer emotional support for the next 40 years.

While technology has changed dramatically over the past 40 years, we, as human beings, still desire to be listened to. Samaritans are here 24/7 to listen without judging or giving advice - free-call 116 123, email [email protected] or visit our temporary Centre at 12 Dock Street, which is opened from 9am to 6pm on weekdays and from 9am-8pm at the weekend.

Galway Samaritans have been fantastic, They have played a role in the development of Galway city and county as central as any other organisation.

Remember whatever fundraising you can do to help the Samaritans, it will never be too much. We never know when we will need to take up the phone and call and share a problem, and halve a problem, and dissect it into little pieces that we can blow away to allow us to get on with our lives.

Happy birthday, Galway Samaritans and a heartfelt thanks to you from all the people who have called you, and from those who have yet to do so. Stay on the line.… your call is important to us.

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