I stood in the playground of my daughter’s school in mid March as parents and grandparents gathered. There was only one thing being talked about: Coronavirus and panic buying! While many were stressing about shortages of toilet rolls and hand soap I was getting more and more stressed about the availability of baby wipes with two disabled children who both needed them. Since I wasn’t about to disclose to otherwise strangers about my children’s intimate care needs I kept quiet and walked my daughter home wondering how I would meet her and her brothers needs silently.
No-one could have predicted that by the end of that week my daughter’s school would close, along with every other school in the country, for an indefinite period due to a worldwide pandemic.
Coronavirus was no longer about which shops had toilet rolls but now about life and death and living in lockdown.
It’s 11 weeks now since lockdown started. I haven’t blogged at all during this period because it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and every last minute of my energy has been spent supporting my autistic husband, caring for my elderly mum and looking after my autistic twins. I have cried alone, cried with my children, had sleepless nights and even had a panic attack for the first time since I was a teenager (longer ago than I want to admit).
But in the midst of this period there has been hope and that hope has kept me going.
Right in the midst of crisis there has been so much kindness.
Two days after lockdown was announced, on the morning I opened the last packet of baby wipes to clean a child up, I had a knock at my door. The postman, who was working throughout as a key worker, delivered a parcel from someone who only knows me via social media.
My daughter opened the parcel and shouted:
“Mum, it’s gold dust! Look what someone sent us!”
That’s the sort of thing she’ll always remember and tell her children about: in the midst of a crisis someone cared enough to show kindness.
Since that day I have been searching deliberately for acts of kindness.
I need hope. We all need hope.
We need to know the world isn’t all darkness and depression and that even when things are incredibly difficult that love never stops.
Here’s some of what I found:
I read stories of children’s birthdays and neighbours decorating gardens when the child was asleep to surprise them.
I read about surprises left on people’s doors…everything ranging from toys to colouring books to wine and chocolate.
Another person told me how a friend from her writing class, who had never met her young daughter, posted a box of books to her so her daughter had something to read.
One that really made me cry was the story of one lady whose daughter is autistic and has a very limited diet. One of the few things the girl eats is McDonald’s fries. For almost 9 weeks every McDonald’s was closed, even the drive through’s, and when they announced reopening it was staged with some places opening before others. One lady queued over an hour to buy fries then drove to the girl’s house to deliver them so that the girl could have her beloved and treasured safe food. That’s incredible sacrifice.
I heard stories of churches making packs for children and families while church was closed.
I read of charities making activity bags and sending them to children all over the country.
I was told of teaching assistants dressing up as children’s favourite characters on video calls to cheer children up.
We had deliveries ourselves including colouring sheets from a local taxi company, Easter eggs from a community group on Easter Sunday and a box left on our doorstep with individually wrapped small gifts for each of us…a magazine for my daughter, my son’s favourite biscuits, a treat for my husband and a bag of sweets for me. Little things that meant the world to us all.
I cried when another friend shared how her sister in America used the time difference to book a supermarket delivery slot in England for her sister and her nephews and even managed to get ten bags of a certain pasta which she knew was a staple food for the family and which they had been struggling to get.
There were so many stories of people making hot food for vulnerable neighbours, shopping for elderly family and friends, supermarkets keeping certain tins of things aside for a local family whose autistic son relied on a certain tin of meat, and then bigger more organised events like people putting rainbow pictures in their windows so children had something to see on their daily walk…the one allowed exercise each day.
Then last week a friend’s son, a wonderful young man who happens to be non verbal, autistic with learning difficulties and epileptic, was celebrating his 18th birthday with no ability to have a party, see family or see his friends at school. So to help him celebrate strangers from around the country sent him cards to open and little gifts that made his day a day to remember even in lockdown.
Kindness and love can’t undo thousands of deaths nor can it eradicate completely the stress and distress of a world wide pandemic, but it can go some way to remind us that even in the midst of a crisis, when people have every reason to look out for just themselves, that there is hope and love in the world and that people still care about others.
It’s acts of kindness that many children will remember in years to come when they tell others about the time they lived in lockdown.
It’s acts of kindness that have helped keep mental health strong in the midst of heartbreak.
It’s acts of kindness that have kept me going when lack of sleep, long days and tight restrictions have felt like I was trapped.
Baby wipes, soap and toilet paper are no longer in short supply these days. Kindness isn’t either.
Even when life is at its hardest look for kindness. I know you will always find it.
With thanks to everyone who shared their stories to bring us all hope.