Chad Varah, the founder of the Samaritans (and their affiliate, Befrienders Worldwide), has died aged 95. He was a vicar, who founded the Samaritans after conducting the funeral of a 13-year-old girl who had committed suicide.
The Samaritans offer confidential emotional support 24 hours a day by phone, e-mail, letter or face-to-face, to anyone experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Their website includes the following quote from a caller:
"There's very few places you can go to in the world where you can pick up a telephone and another human being, no matter why they're doing it, will listen to you unconditionally. If you want to pour out in a phonecall, they will listen for hours."
Chad Varah's son explained how his father saw the work of the Samaritans:
"My father described this befriending of the suicidal thus: There are in this world, in every country, people who seem to be 'ordinary', but who, when meeting a suicidal person, turn out to be extraordinary.
"They can usually save lives. How? They give the sad person their total attention. They completely forget themselves. They listen... and listen... and listen, without interrupting.
"If asked for advice, they say: 'You're the only person who can advise you well - what do you think you should do?' They have no message. They do not preach. They have nothing to sell.
"We call them 'Samaritans'."
More details here.
What a fantastic legacy this man has left. May he rest in peace - and may we all learn from him to judge a little less and listen a little more.