Some time ago someone told me how they describe the difference between befriending and being a friend.
We tend to talk about ‘befriending some one’ – its something we do ‘to’ them, we do it as a volunteer and generally with prescribed regularity. The volunteer can choose to stop at any time whereas the ‘client’ is expected to be grateful for the time and generally doesn’t have the choice about stopping the relationship.
On the other hand we talk about being a friend ‘with’ someone – its an equal partnership with both agreeing how often they meet and to do what.
Many agencies match befrienders to clients so that they are more like friends, but the dependency on someone managing the relationship is still there and we don’t underestimate the importance of this for some people.
However for some people providing the tools to help them find their own friends can be more effective in the long term – we think of it as being like the difference between providing fish to a hungry person or helping them to learn to fish to solve the problem in the longer term. Yes, it may be more difficult in the short term but the long term benefits can be huge. A Chat Mat can be that tool which a befriender may help someone learn to use. It can be an offer of friendship, a request for friendship, a way of communicating whether you are hungry for company or have an abundance to offer.