I started this morning like any other. My six am alarm went off, just like normal. I made a half-hearted attempt at some exercise before the baby awoke, just like normal. I ate my high-protein-low-carb breakfast, just like normal. Fed the baby her overnight oats (i.e. posh porridge), while trying to keep the rug clean, just like normal. Made my wife and I our deliciously pretentious pour-over coffee, just like normal. Then I set off for my daily commute… to the dining table, which still, does not feel normal.
In fact, nothing seems normal anymore. Since COVID-19 hit our shores, our lives have been thrown into a sea of chaos and uncertainty. How long is this going to last? Am I going to catch it? What about my family? Do we have enough in the house to get us through self-isolation? These are all valid and realistic questions that all of us are having to answer, none of them easily. We’re now facing the reality that all of us are in this for a while.
My family is small; it’s just me, my wife, LJ, and our baby daughter, Iona, but even we’ve felt the trials this crisis is bringing to families all over the country. Suddenly Iona’s sniffles have become a huge deal, toilet paper and hand-sanitiser has become a form of currency, and even though our work situations seem secure at present, this is certainly not the norm. For many, trying to work and parent at the same time is no mean feat, the back of my laptop is beginning to look like a Jackson Pollock masterpiece!
COVID-19 is a storm that we are forced to weather, yet rays of sunshine could still break through to brighten people’s lives. During a time when families are feeling more isolated than ever, it’s up to us as their neighbours to step up and help fill the void of loneliness where we can. In every street, avenue and cul-de-sac, random acts of kindness could kindle hope for families just when they need it most.
Shop, but don’t drop!
One really impactful way to be neighbourly is to do a bit of shopping. For someone else that is. As more and more people are having to self-isolate and stricter distancing measures are carried out, it could become impossible for some families to even get out of the house, especially if you’re a single parent or live alone. If you’re healthy and have some time it would be such a help if you could become their friendly neighbourhood shopper.
Our neighbour, Lowri, has two young children and her husband Charlie is a nurse at the local hospital. Opposite their house is a park where the kids used to play regularly. Now with the restrictions it may as well be 20 miles away. It took us no extra effort to get Lowri and Charlie some essentials, and a few treats for the kids at the shops. Lowri was quick to tell us that the favour will be returned, which I’m sure we’ll appreciate.
A Neighbourly Network
Simply adding someone else’s tasks to your own doesn’t need to be a burden. If you’re posting some mail, perhaps see if you can post some for your neighbours too. Again, these seemingly small gestures can make the biggest impact. This is also where technology comes into its own as asking for help is technically easier than ever before. Many streets are making their neighbourhood watch meetings digital, by having a neighbourhood WhatsApp group or by using sites like Nextdoor.com. Many people have been a part of such groups for a while, but now they are really showing their true worth.
My colleague, Matt, is working from home, like most of us he has been using his account on Nextdoor to stay connected with his neighbours. “I have been a member of this site since last year,” he explains. “But it’s really kicking off since lots of people are working at home now. I have connected virtually with a few of my neighbours and I can recommend it for anyone else who is lone working.”
We are, by design, social creatures and are not meant to be alone. Becoming socially distant and isolating ourselves from one another is grating, but it’s reassuring to know that, even though we have to physically keep two metres apart, help from our neighbours is just a simple click away.
These are trying times, there’s no denying it. If we had the power we would certainly choose to go back to the way things were, but perhaps with one small change. During this crisis I have learnt that my neighbours are not just the people who live next door, over the road or even around the corner, they’re a support group, a safety net, a surrogate family.
Before the virus, I had taken them for granted. I would always say hello, give a nod in the morning or accept a delivery for them, but that’s about as far as my neighbourly duties went. However, if there’s one positive lesson to be taken from all this, it’s that my neighbours are my allies, and we’ve got each other’s backs. Of course with all of this, we have to be safe and stay informed about guidelines on what’s going on. But, when we’re able, it’s good to know we can make a huge difference in each other’s lives.