The pandemic has demonstrated that we can do remarkable things when faced with a crisis. The levels of compliance with previously unimaginable restrictions on our freedoms have been sky high, and new vaccines for a disease not even known to us this time last year are already in use. But what have we learnt from the way that neighbours and others in our community have responded?
Admittedly my sample size is unscientific, but from where I’m sitting in the large north Cambridge village of Histon & Impington, the unprecedented challenge has been met with astonishing kindness and generosity. It’s given people an excuse to be kind, to share what they have, to connect and let strangers know that they care.
There are hundreds of examples but only space for a few, so here goes; my youngest recently got COVID-19 mid-mocks and whilst in isolation little treats were left on the doorstep most days and the hound was taken out by people who’d never walked a dog in their life. Over the first big lockdown, community leaders (all volunteers) quickly organised an amazing COVID Response Team that recruited 89 Street Co-ordinators to cover all 131 streets. They collected hundreds of prescriptions and food supplies and made sure there was always time for a friendly, socially distanced doorstep chat. When the Government decided against offering a free school meal equivalent to families over the recent October half-term, our local ‘Indian Ocean’ restaurant offered a free, hot lunch every day that week to those affected. At the same time an appeal raised £4000 within days that was then distributed via the local schools to those in need. Pallets have been placed at points through the villages for people to drop off food for redistribution, shoeboxes have been filled with gifts to spread a little cheer. Back in July a group of A level students offered daily, two hour garden based lessons in maths, English, history and science to small groups of GCSE pupils who were missing going in. Last week we all woke to discover that a group of makers and crafters had decorated the tops of every post box with a village or Christmas theme.
For some, lockdown has allowed us to rush a little less and to notice the subtler backgrounds to our lives – the brawling teenage starlings on the feeder, the cobwebs laced in dew, the glossy conker lying in the autumn leaves. Many have appreciated nature like never before and this context may explain why the community in Histon and Impington organised itself at lightning speed to pledge a huge sum of money to purchase some much cherished wildlife rich land when it came up for sale.
The pandemic and our response to it gives me hope for the climate and biodiversity crisis; we’ve seen that we can make extraordinary progress much faster than maybe we’ve been led to believe, there’s no doubt that the wellbeing of ourselves and nature are inextricably entwined and that people are powerfully motivated for the common good.
Article first published in the Cambridge Independent 16th December 2020