A month ago I released Four Minutes to Save a Life, a novel about how to stop people being stuck in their houses alone. It came out with a strong message about how little acts of kindness can help people get out and make friends and not feel so isolated. And yet now, we are all trapped in our own homes.
Three weeks ago people were tweeting to tell me how much they loved the story of Charlie, the supermarket delivery driver who goes into the homes of three lonely people and quietly encourages them to make friends with each other. And yet now delivery drivers are having to stand back from the doorstep and, even then, are working at peril of their own health.
Two weeks ago I worked with CAMRA on a campaign to encourage people to get out to their local pubs to combat loneliness and yet now all pubs, restaurants and social areas are closed.
Covid-19 has torn apart all our usual social contact and way of life. It has stopped kids playing in the park, and teenagers taking their exams. It has stopped birthday parties and competitions and the simple routines of the working day. It has stopped athletes training and the injured having routine operations and, worst of all, it has put great swathes of the population in very genuine fear of their lives. Yesterday I watched a film that showed people gathering for a talk and felt genuine shock that they were sitting close to each other – so very quickly our sense of what is ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ has been skewed out of all recognition.
One of the positives to come out of this hideous, terrifying crisis is the rising sense of community that I hope Four Minutes to Save a Life embodies. OK, so we can’t call on each other any more, we can’t meet in the pub or the park, we can barely even shop, but we are supporting each other in quiet, innovative and self-sacrificing ways. The internet – something we so often curse, especially those of us with teenagers who seem permanently glued to its varied joys – is coming into its own. People are chatting online, both singley and in groups (check out our ‘family yoga’ session in the picture!). People are all stepping up in front of their TVs and computers to do exercise together. They are taking to social media to cheer each other up and to praise the wonderful medical staff who are working so hard for us all. Local online groups are offering aid to those stuck alone and supermarkets, farm shops, pubs and other retailers are doing their best to supply people remotely. And as a result, delivery drivers like Charlie are holding so many people together.
As Charlie says in Four Minutes to Save a Life, ‘no one deserves to be lonely’ and in these dark days at least so many humans are proving their capacity for love and care for each other, whatever the barriers. I salute them all for it.
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Anna is the author of Bonnie and Stan, out in paperback May 31st 2019 with a second novel (yet to be announced!) due in 2020.