This post is part of a series of blogs sharing good news stories, positive practice and the range of innovative ways communities in Leeds are remaining connected through neighbourliness.
Like many others at present, I’m at home with my children all of the time. In line with the increased time we’re spending together, my requests for them to share, be kind to each other and help around the house have also gone up. Households the world over teach their children to share, take turns and give back to friends and family who give to us. And yet the importance of reciprocity can often be underestimated, especially when family, friendships, and neighbourliness are overtaken by work, stakeholders and service provision.
Thousands of people in Leeds and hundreds of thousands of people nationally have volunteered to help the Covid 19 response effort in whatever way they can. This is awe inspiring, but not surprising. People often talk about ‘giving back’ or ‘contributing to something bigger than ourselves’, it’s why many of us come to work. But why do so many want to give back? Back in 2008 the New Economic Foundation wrote Five Ways to Well-being, it distilled hundreds of research papers and considered how to improve everyone’s mental capital and mental wellbeing through life. It set out five actions to improve personal wellbeing: connect; be active; take notice; keep learning; and give. Of just five ways to improve well-being, giving is so good for us that it gets a significant mention. Giving isn’t just good for the recipient, it improves the wellbeing of those who give, instilling them with a sense of purpose and feeling valued.
Instinctively, we know this to be true and during this time of a global pandemic we can see it everywhere. Be this the notes of thanks and gifts left out for refuse collectors and delivery drivers, or the street WhatsApp groups enabling small favours to be exchanged. It can be seen in the clap for carers, the Facebook groups matching up neighbours, and the offers of help notes popped through people’s letterboxes. People want the opportunity to give.
Sometimes, however, this can be forgotten. When people need support and in the rush to help, we don’t always see or accept the gifts of the people we are supporting. This can lead to people feeling useless or worse insignificant and hopeless. If we look, we can see examples of this too. This week I heard about people, at a time of need, feeling extremely upset about receiving ‘free food’ and the relief they experienced when they could pay with vouchers. If giving is good for our well-being, it is good for everyone’s well-being.
One example is Good Gym – a national organisation, but with a strong presence in Leeds https://www.goodgym.org/areas/leeds . Good Gym is an organisation that considers reciprocity; it provides ways for people to connect and feel good whilst also getting fit. Its members get fit by helping out through either picking up things for their coach or contributing to a community project. The coaches are people who could have been classed as lonely, but instead they are recognised for what they can give – motivation and friendship. Like many organisations, they have been challenged by the current situation, but they are using their members to continue to get things to their coaches, as well as helping with shopping and food distribution. Nationally they have done more missions in the past three weeks than the previous three months. As I said, people want to give and at times of crisis that wish only increases.
The same is true for those presumed to be solely on the receiving end of all the volunteering currently taking place. Many of the people who either formally volunteer or help out their neighbours also receive services. This needs to be a recognised part of our response to Covid 19. Just as we value the fundraising of Captain Tom, we need to also celebrate people from the ‘shielded’ group in Leeds volunteering to ring up and check on those who are also self-isolating.
We feel better when we contribute to something and giving is helping some people deal with the anxiety they are experiencing. We never know what the future will hold, but that uncertainty looms much larger at the moment. In the aftermath of this pandemic there will be many routes to recovery, but people continuing to support each other where they live will always to be vital and uplifting. What is especially important is that everyone’s contribution is valued both today and the next, whatever else it brings us.
By Lisa Keenan
Enterprise Development Manager
Leeds City Council
**Photo credit, In Good Company Leeds**
The photographs used are part of Posters for the People which is an In Good Company project in collaboration with renowned artists from across the UK. A campaign to bring joy, art and colour to the streets so that people can spread positivity with art.
In Good Company brought together a group of seven creatives including Morag Myerscough, Studio Build, Luke Tonge, Rebecca Strickson Illustration, Anthony Burrill, FYI, Craig Black and Risotto Studio to create a campaign to bring joy, art and colour to the streets during Covid 19.
Anyone can join in by buying a banner of their chosen art and all the profits will be split evenly across the artists choice of charities.
The standard banners sized at 1000mm x 750mm cost just £19.80 inc shipping (in the UK) with an optional additional donation.
Banners are also available to ship worldwide and in custom sizes. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.