Lucy describes her recent experience of lock down and reveals the value of community:
It’s funny, you can live on a street for years going about your daily life not paying too much attention to those around you. As neighbours you may exchange the odd wave, a nod, a cheery ‘good morning’ but most of us are busy with our own schedules and priorities and often don’t really take the time to get to know the people who are living across the road or even right next door. In the last four weeks I have felt the true value of community and what happens when people come together.
On Tuesday March 10th our youngest daughter Evie, 7, was discharged off the Critical Care Unit. This wasn’t an unfamiliar scenario for our family, Evie has a heart and lung condition and has spent her life in and out of hospital. It has become our norm. This time however, something was different. Rather than going to the ward for a few days to continue her recovery she was sent straight home because of a growing concern that she could pick up infections on an open ward. Strange.
We wondered if this could be something to do with the Corona virus we’d heard about on the news, but didn’t give it too much thought and carried on for a few days as normal.
By the weekend things had changed, public awareness of the virus and potential risk had increased significantly and the realisation came that the situation wasn’t just a quick phase or a media hype.
Saturday 14th March
On the limited information that was available we made the decision to shield Evie as a precaution and decided that the only way we could do that effectively was to shield ourselves too. We stopped going to all shops, declined offers to meet with family and friends and removed our eldest daughter from school. Until there was further guidance available, we were ‘in’.
When you care for a vulnerable child you often find yourself caught in a constant battle of following your gut instinct and doing what you believe to be right and worrying that you are being over cautious and over reacting. I was hopeful of the latter.
The signs went up in our windows advising people it was a high risk household and requesting that they kept their distance. This was what we wanted and needed to happen but the reality of seeing people take note and step away was not something we were prepared for and left us feeling isolated and alone. It was a long week, then on Monday 23rd just before the UKs lockdown was announced the text arrived,
‘ We have identified that you are someone at risk of severe illness if you catch Coronavirus. Please remain at home for a minimum of 12 weeks.’
It’s strange, this was a decision that we had, in part, already made but once it had been confirmed by someone else everything changed. 12 weeks, 3 months, 84 days, we couldn’t begin to comprehend it. Right there in that second the loneliness hit. All the ‘what ifs’, fears and uncertainties we had harboured were suddenly very real. The world became a scary and lonely place. I went to bed that night feeling frightened, confined and unsure how we were going to get by.
Fortunately, that feeling was short lived. Early the next morning a card was posted through our door. It read,
‘If you are isolating and in need of support, we’re more than happy to help you. Please text or call us on: xxxxx, from The Ashfords at no 7. ( If you would like to be part of the street WhatsApp group, please let us know)
My initial instinct was to thank the sender and keep the card in a safe place – just in case. Afterall, admitting you need help and asking for it can be hard, but instead I found myself texting this stranger ( who lives 10 doors away) explaining our situation and asking to join the WhatsApp group and I’m so glad I did! What happened next was amazing!
Offers of help came flooding in, not just for vital resources such as groceries and prescription collections but also for support and understanding. This one act of kindness and movement to bring a community together made all the difference. It was a huge relief from the confinement we had been feeling. We weren’t as alone as we thought and we were smiling again!
Within 24 hours we had made new friends! Some of which we have never seen despite living just a few doors away – and perhaps we won’t for sometime yet but that didn’t matter. The WhatsApp group was instantly active and there was an air of excitement and joy that we were all coming together. It was quite fun working out who was who and where we all lived.
‘Which house do you live in?’
‘Two doors down from you, we wave every morning!’
Now, 4 weeks in, we all know each other by name and have come together to laugh, to cry and to share experiences. In what is a strange time of lockdown and isolation our road has become more active and vibrant than ever! On Thursday we all clap, cheer, bang pans for the NHS seeing if we can hear each other from the top to the bottom of the street, on Saturday evenings we each pull up deck chairs on our driveways and have a chat, on a Sunday we dance on our doorsteps and of course each evening at 6:30 we take part in the beloved Belper Moo! In between these scheduled events on the WhatsApp group we share craft ideas, check in on elderly residents, gather material and buttons for those who can to make scrubs and headbands for hospital and care workers and spend hours chatting to one another helping out where we can.
I thought not being able to visit public places such as shops would limit what we could do to help and support others around us but I had underestimated the value of talking and connecting which is sometimes all that is needed.
As a community we are stronger and more connected as a result of the pandemic.
There is no doubt that these are hard and scary times, but I have never felt more moved by the warmth of community spirit and kindness. Each one of us is living a different story while riding the same storm. We are writing our own piece of history and I am so grateful to be part of a neighbourhood that is playing it out together. We are a community that is no longer built of strangers but friends.
When these times are over this is a part of our new normal that I hope will remain.