Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Over the last few months the earth has been rocked by the COVID 19 pandemic and many have had to focus on surviving… in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, our basic ‘bottom of the ladder’ stuff is our physiological needs (food, water, shelter etc.) and safety needs (health, property, family). For a lot of us, we have had to re-evaluate what we hold as important or valued. For others, they are always sadly working on the basic needs and never get to consider Love and Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualisation which lie higher up the ladder. Having set up Stirling’s Crisis Food bank in 2007 and also having experienced some homelessness and hardship in my past, I have been in touch with the raw reality of survival. The ‘why don’t you just….’ and ‘could you not just…’ statements from well-intentioned but misguided folks no longer float around. This pandemic panic has levelled us out somewhat and most of us are now concerned for the safety of our loved ones and meeting the most basic needs.
Before my involvement in the food bank world, I had a bit of a cynical view that folks where just out for themselves, that we had become a self-centred, self-serving community who couldn’t care less about those less fortunate. Part of that definitely was brought to light but something else happened too. As I say the wee old lady arrive with a few tins to donate, or a kid bringing their pocket money, or the local business couple filling their car boot at the cash and carry and bringing it to our premises – I saw that there was more to it… more than my negative bias was letting me see. People who volunteered, donated and more importantly cared. I saw a few folks who liked to brag and use the ‘volunteering’ as a bit of a status symbol… ‘look what a great person I am’ stuff but not the majority. The majority didn’t want the spotlight, they wanted to graft away filling boxes, packing bags and getting the stuff out to those who needed it most. Humble and so inspiring. You could say ‘well what were you doing… you were getting paid as a worker!’. The truth is, I started out getting paid for 3 hours a week whilst putting in over 30 hours… whilst also studying. I wanted it to work so badly, little did anyone know, I was also struggling to bring food onto my table at times! I was also determined to bring food but also support, listening and caring – so me and my colleague who started as an intern, built a volunteer army of trained listeners so that people came and would feel ‘held’, listened to, supported and that they mattered. Someone in the world cared about them. That was more important than the food could ever be. In 2020 the Crisis Food Bank is still going strong and I have mixed feelings about it… I am so pleased that the community continues to show up for each other but also so sad that we are so many years on and it is still needed so much, even more so now that the pandemic has put a lot of people into financial difficulty.
I worry about the mental health difficulties this pandemic will leave in its wake… how will our reality change. So sad that violence increases as we get further into this hard road. What is clear was that ‘normal’ wasn’t working. The ‘community’ spirit has been revived to remind me of when I was young – 40 years ago where neighbours would think of others, keep an eye on the older members of the community, give if they had something to help. More recently there has been a ‘I’m alright jack’ vibe… but maybe there will be some good to emerge from the hard hitting COVID 19.
I hope we learn from this, I hope this ‘pause’ will become, as the Buddhist texts term ‘a sacred pause’ to reflect on what we really need, what is really important and how we connect and find meaning in our lives that isn’t delivered from Amazon.
Don’t get me wrong, I am no saintly sentient being, I value a few of my possessions, my guitar, my camera, my wee cabin in the woods… but when all is said and done, those I love are the only ones who truly matter… my partner in crime, my wee clan, my springer.
Everything else is a bonus. But those wee people who make me laugh, who hug me tight and who bring out the very best in me… I am grateful for every moment I have with them.
Me doing my bit… as a wife and mum, my clan is my priority making sure they are able to find the joy despite the difficulty, to give them a space to talk about their fears and concerns. Not to offer ‘candy floss’ responses but just to allow them to find their voice. As a lecturer, I feel it is my job to support the students who are struggling with all this.. to help them get through their qualification they have worked so hard for, also to offer a safe space for my yoga students and encourage others who might be struggling or isolate to use yoga, mindfulness and meditation to improve their wellness.
What I need… love, nature, laughter, music, space, gratitude, patience.