On the 12th March when the whole of Ireland closed due to Covid 19 and lock down was implemented my first thought was who will I talk to face to face, how will I pass the day? In my ‘normal life’ I’m always on the go, teaching, volunteering, coffees, meals out, shopping..........always doing.
I've been living in my cul de sac of 14 houses for 11 years and I’m ashamed to say I knew nobody except a couple of my neighbours to give a quick wave to. I was so touched by what I saw the Italians doing during the height of their lockdown, coming together, singing on their balconies that I thought maybe I could start something similar here. So on Saturday 14th March 2020 I dropped a handwritten note in through everyone’s door (as the printer had no ink) and the response the first night was amazing despite it being bitterly cold. That first night one neighbour had to use a pen and paper to jot down peoples names and house numbers so we could remember who was who and who lived where! What a change it has been since then........
We have been out together, 2 metres apart every single night at 7.00pm since the 15th March and now in the middle of October 2020 we have celebrated 30 weeks of being 'together but apart' !!!! There have been no exceptions, we are out in the rain, wind or sun. We have been singing together, dancing, playing bingo, playing tennis, hopscotch, scooting, kite flying and generally acting the maggot. The highlight of the week is take away night on Friday night, be it fish and chips, pizza, restaurant deliveries- Candelabras and table cloths are a must! Whoever fancies ‘eating out’ puts in an order for 7pm for delivery and we sit on the pathway outside our homes. We've celebrated birthdays, we delivered Easter Eggs to every house as a little surprise on Easter morning, we have toasted marshmallows and lit the fire pit when the weather has been a little chilly.
We have come together in silence and we have shone our lights to remember those that haven't made it and we have applauded the front line staff for all their amazing work.
Every day I feel so thankful that I popped the note in everyone's door, I feel truly blessed that people who were strangers to me seven months ago are now people I can call friends.
One of our neighbours came up with the word ‘COVIDLINESS’ to describe what we are doing in our small community, such a beautiful word to describe such beautiful things that have happened during this time between people who were strangers but now are friends.
What is my connection to Parkinson's you might ask? Well in 2013 my dad was diagnosed and when himself and my mum saw what I was doing in my community they reached out to their neighbours too and the result was just as fantastic!
My advice is don't be afraid to reach out to offer support or to give it. I didn't sleep the night after I put the note through everyone's door back in March 2020, I thought ‘What have a done?’ but it has honestly been the best thing I ever could have done not just for me but for my community. We are there to support each other for the good days, the not so good days and the bad days and that’s what is important. For some of the community we are ‘the family’ they don’t get to see, for others 7pmeach night is the only contact they have with someone all day and for them it has been their lifeline.
Communities are so important and vital especially during these challenging times and the Move4Parkinsons's community has always been a very unique and special one. We may not be together physically at the moment but the time will come when we will be together again and I for one can't wait for that day when we can sing and dance and be together.
Until then, please Stay Safe and Stay Strong!