This episode introduces us to Chrissy, a woman who has many strings to her bow, including being a tutor, a coach and a poet. She was living on her own in London when the lockdown was announced and she found herself feeling particularly isolated. As a result, when there was a call for people to help at her local food bank, she answered that call immediately.
Volunteering at the foodbank brought her into direct contact with those who had been hit hardest by the pandemic: “I was fielding calls from lots of people who found themselves unable to access a food bank or who had lost their job and had no way of getting any money.” This included people who had signed up for Universal Credit, a form of social security in the UK, and who had to endure a five-week wait before they were able to receive any funds.
One particular individual who needed help was a man who called in a state of anxiety, distress and breathlessness. He had been cycling around London trying to access a food bank finding that none of them were open due to lockdown restrictions. He told Chrissy “I just need to get some food, I’m so hungry.” As people were not allowed to congregate in indoor spaces, the food would have to be delivered, which could entail a 72-hour wait, something which those in desperate need of nourishment could find “extremely distressing”.
It was this anxiety and distress that Chrissy found herself managing as well as the practicalities of making sure those who needed food got it. Talking about the man cycling through London again, she says: “just the fact I was kind and willing to listen helped him”. As well as looking for food, he was looking for an outlet for his anxiety. Chrissy’s caring, calming presence was able to provide that.
Another example of people finding themselves left behind came in the shape of a Spanish-speaking community who were not able to understand how to access the food banks. As no-one on the volunteering staff could speak Spanish, Chrissy had the idea of contacting a Spanish-speaker on Whatsapp who was able to translate the instructions into Spanish. That way, when a Spanish-speaker called her, she could play the recording down the phone “then the Spanish people could listen to the recording so they knew what they needed to do.”
Chrissy takes pride in describing herself as “a cog in the wheel”. For her, the struggles she has seen so many endure resonate on a personal level: “I went out into the world at 16 and there were times when I didn’t have any food… I know what it’s like to have no safety net.”
Speaking about how lockdown has impacted her, she says: “It’s made me live more in the moment and be grateful for those small things we can access and have. I’m very grateful for the fact that I have everything I need. I’ve just stopped striving so much to be over there and have this next thing, I’ve just become much more present.” As difficult as lockdown has been, there are lessons it has to teach us, it seems.