• Oxford Together Stories

It's A Two-Way Street

L

ife was just ticking on as normal, nothing special planned, nothing that I had to cancel greatly, apart from a ski holiday, and then - woom! - it came.

I live alone. I lost my partner to cancer just over a year ago, so it's really brought home how lonely I am to be honest. 36 years with someone and suddenly they're gone, there's an awful lot of adjustment to do. You know, coming back when I’d been out for a cycle or something, 24/7 it's just you and your own company. Going to the pub was a place where I could see friends and strangers and have conversations. I've been very short on conversation. For me, the pub provided a real social network - I don't use Facebook and that kind of stuff, so it really amplified things when that possibility to go out and meet people, be face to face with people, was gone. The Zoom stuff was great, but it's not the same as meeting up with someone or just having a conversation in passing or what have you. Just woom! The brakes came on and all that just stopped.

Oxford Together, the Oxford Hub - I kind of signed up for that because I felt I was in a position to sort of offer some assistance. As I say, I live alone, so there's little chance of me bumping into people and picking up the bug. I didn’t know how Oxford Together was constituted actually - I didn't know whether it was part of the City Council, or funded by them, or an independent organisation, or how long they’ve been running. I still don't know anything about it to be honest, but it just seemed like it was doing something and something that was needed. It just sounded like a good thing, you know? It sounded like someone was out there getting in touch with people and putting them in touch.

I contacted them and they got back in touch with me and sent me a couple of names over of people who needed assistance to pick up prescriptions for them - there was one down in Marston and one down in Northway. Then a couple of weeks later they contacted me with a lady up the road who, again, just wanted some shopping doing. So it's been nothing too momentous, you know, it’s just a little bit here and there. It was all very light touch actually. There was no other formal introduction, I just gave them a call and said,“ I'm from Oxford Hub, I’m here to help you out. What do you need doing?” And they let me know. It was practical, straightforward.

Through doing it I was introduced to four people in different parts of the community that I hadn’t engaged with who were getting on a bit in age and quite under-the-weather in this instance, I think. I was aware that these communities existed, it’s just that I hadn't engaged with them in my day- to -day life. I guess what it does is sort of reconfirm that there are some people out there less well off than you are. You know, doing something as simple as I was doing was the least I could do really.

And they offer you lovely, lovely things. It's crazy, because I said, “No, you know I can't receive it. I can't accept anything. I'm happy to do it. I volunteer to do it, I’m more than happy.” It was kind of heart-warming how grateful they felt for the assistance that was being offered to them, even though, as I say, it was very little from my point of view. It didn't cause me any sort of problems or anything out of the normal - it was nice to engage with people.

It can't be wrong to actually have an inclusive society where those who are less fortunate can receive some assistance and help, in whatever shape or form, from those who are able to provide it and it can’t do any harm to foster a greater sense of community togetherness. Because it's a two-way street. Someone benefits from someone else giving, and the person who's giving benefits from knowing that they’re contributing, not just sitting on their jacksie and letting the world go by.

What has been incredibly positive about this pandemic, from my view, is that there has been a greater sense of community, and people looking out for each other. Like everyone clapping on Thursday, you know? - I’ve seen my neighbours more the last 10 weeks then I've seen them in in 26 years. So, it has triggered a sense of community and if we can kind of hold on to that, and take it forward, it will be great.

If the authorities - City Council, County Council and other agencies - if they can see how effective this kind of community response has been, they might take note and say, “Hey, well, let's transfer this model into everyday working practice” when, touch wood, this bloody pandemic has moved on. Maybe initiatives from Oxford Together can be maintained in some way? You know, I think it is great - buddying up with elderly people who maybe are isolated, or families that have issues. I’ve seen how they can be helped out through just a bit of community involvement. If we could put a bridge over to those things, it would be great.

And Oxford Hub seem to be a roots sort of organisation and maybe people kind of prefer that kind of contact, rather than getting in touch with ‘The Man’, you know? -the big authority up there. It’s definitely reached parts I think that the Council has failed to. And maybe that's because the Council’s a juggernaut and you sometimes need a mini car.

It'd be nice to sort of keep in touch after all this has gone with my four new friends who I haven't really spoken to apart from on the phone and waved at through the window - it would be nice to go out and walk in the sunshine with them at one point in the future.

It's been good for me knowing that I can contribute - I can give something. And that that gives you a sense of wellbeing, you know? Instead of just being on your Jack Jones and looking after number one. It's kind of made me aware of how much we take for granted, how easy our life has been and it's made me very aware of my mum's fragility. She's an old lady who I haven't seen in two and a half months, who's been sort of shielding. My sister sees her but it brings home the gravity of how easily you could lose someone. And particularly these terrible things you hear about people who've lost loved ones and not been able to be by them or close to them - which must be absolutely dreadful. Having lost someone, having lost someone not so long ago, I couldn't imagine not being - you know…

So in a way it sort of has perhaps made me a little more aware of how easily you take things for granted, and it isn't until something like this comes that you get a wake-up call and all these things that were so easily in reach are suddenly so distant. But I don't think I'm unique - I think that's the same for everyone.

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