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Porridge at the back door: readers share kind gestures from lockdown

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The Covid-19 pandemic has placed an enormous strain on many people. And when people are stressed, ordinary moments of kindness and generosity are often in short supply.

We know, however, that there have been many caring and decent gestures from family, friends and neighbours over the past number of months. We asked readers for some of the moments of kindness they will remember long after the pandemic is over.

Here are some of their replies.

Less hurtful to be away

“I have lived in the US for 17 years. When the lockdown hit, I was blown away by the kindness of my mother’s community in Bishopsgrove, Ferrybank, in Waterford. It was probably not atypical for villages in Ireland but her neighbours set up a WhatsApp group that older people could use to place requests for grocery orders and prescription pick-ups. Thankfully, I also have siblings in Waterford, but I think of those that do not and how this was their lifeline. Plus it allowed for some socially-distanced chats on drop-off, so helped to mitigate for loneliness. I was very touched by the kindness of these neighbours . . . it definitely made it less hurtful to be away knowing that my mother had so much help.”

Niamh Coleman, Seattle

Closer together

“My neighbours are very elderly so we set up a rota early on in the pandemic, mainly for shopping but also to cut their lawns and collect anything they need. It has brought the whole area closer together, and during the summer the neighbours – particularly those who lived alone – would call in every now and then to say hello. Now, we’re back to square one, collecting medicine from pharmacies and doing the weekly shop for them. Hopefully, it won’t be for too long.”

– Anonymous

Easter eggs

“Mum and Dad were cocooning. Model citizens that they are, they put down the day’s gardening, read the paper, and watched a bit of television. Well-intentioned offspring that we are, we’d tiptoed that thin line of it being better for us to do the supermarket shopping. My very obliging sisters left the very specific grocery order (the Lidl porridge and meat from the butchers) outside the back door and chatted to them from there.

“They’ve a tight band of friends whom they’ve known for years, they were always on the phone to each other. A few of the neighbours had been kind enough to check in with them, to make sure they had everything they needed.

“They loved showing off their new technical adeptness – we’d be Facetimed, usually to admire the new flower bed or get our input on a crossword clue. Then there was the bi-weekly family Zoom calls: six households, 12 adults, 11 clamorous grandkids, they were lively events.

“Relatively speaking, they were lucky and they knew it. Mum might have the odd glass of sherry with her lunch. Dad was flaking through the hard drive, filled with favourite movies, gifted from his son-in-law. ‘Aren’t we grand?’ they’d say. There was no reason for them go to their front door, let alone open it. So, they never saw the Easter eggs a kind friend left on the mat when she was passing.

“The postlady spotted them on Holy Thursday. ‘Sure it’s part of our job to keep an eye on people,’ she said. When they were still there on the Tuesday she became concerned. In the post office in Limerick city, she tried calling my Dad’s cousin, who had an office in town. She’d recently left Limerick and moved to her sister in Sligo. One of the men who’d taken over the office managed to track down her old business partner who finally got through to her with a message to call the post office, urgently.

“The Easter eggs were rescued and, subsequently, deposited outside the back door for my sisters’ kids. A thank you card, a box of chocolates and a (spare) bottle of sherry were left outside the front door for that very kind postlady who over-delivered to make sure the customers on her route stayed safe.”

– Isobel Tynan

Lovely surprise

“My pharmacy, Pure in Stillorgan, Dublin, were delivering my medication every few weeks and anything else I needed from the chemist. My day was brightened no end when they sent me friendly notes and Post-Its with some chocolates and small tokens like hand creams and hand sanitisers. It was a lovely surprise! The girls also phoned me once out of the blue because they hadn’t heard from me in a few weeks and we had great chats for a few minutes in their busy day.”

– Anonymous

€10 Voucher

“We went food shopping one week and it came to quite a high amount. The woman on the till was so kind – she took a €10 voucher from her pocket that she was given as an employee and scanned it so we could get €10 off our shopping that week. For most, this would be a small gesture, but for us that week it meant the world.”

Gemma Doran, Wexford

Cocoon without worry

“Our darling daughter and son-in-law have minded us in every possible way since last March, allowing us to cocoon safely and without worry. Their wonderful children have also helped in anyway possible from cutting the lawn to popping in for a cup of tea which is so very very important during these days.”

– Seán and Philomena Osborne

Bird-watching

“My mum Rosa bought the little kids who lived next door a bird-watching book and a bird feeder to help keep them occupied when schools were closed at the start of the first lockdown. She also posted me and my housemate a few crosswords to help us pass the time.”

– Rachel Meagher

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