Compeer Volunteer Feature

MHA Compeer Volunteer Betsy Anderson shares how her friendship with Margaret has changed both of their lives

My friend and I are alike in many ways—both American, in our 70s and retired. Like me, she’s worked most of her life and has spent years asa single mom—only she often had to work three jobs to support her family. We’re both proud great grandmas who adore our families. We’re bothdog owners, love food, are curious about the world, and enjoy good conversation, laced with laughter.
That’s not to say that there aren’t notable differences. Unlike myself, my friend is part of a distinct ethnic group. She rents an apartment in a senior living center, while I own my own condo in a multigenerational community. I am a tall, rangy woman with a friendly, ordinary face while she is petite and truly beautiful in an exotic way. I dress simply in jeans, button-up shirts and sneakers; makeup is a distant memory. Margaret, on the other hand, is into glamour—she loves skirts and off-the-shoulder blouses. She wouldn’t be caught dead without mascara and lipstick and I don’t think she owns a pair of sneakers. These likenesses and differences are the foundation of our friendship.
My Compeer friendship has impacted my life positively in numerous ways. I have learned more about a culture different from my own. But what has moved me the most is learning how my friend has overcome trauma and still lived her life with joy. I am humbled by her courage as she copes with severe limits on her mobility, use of her hands, spinal disease, and heart problems that often cause much pain and stress. She may be physically fragile, but she has a strong spirit and a profound love of life. Our friendship has supported her efforts to become more mobile. After 10 years of being wheelchair-bound, she now uses a walker occasionally, despite the enormous effort it requires. We can do more together now because her walker fits in my car.

I strongly recommend Compeer to others because you are guaranteed to learn something new, have an opportunity to give back, and, most important make and keep a friend—one of life’s true pleasures. It was an honor when she introduced me to her son as ‘my best friend.’

MHA’s Compeer program matches community volunteers with adults in mental health recovery. Volunteers provide one-to-one supportive friendship and mentoring relationships to offset the loneliness and social isolation that can accompany mental illness.

To Volunteer or Request a Friendship Match, Click Here.

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