So if you had told me in February that a WhatsApp message saying “Bread! Bread! Bread!” could make my heart leap with joy and put a huge smile on my face for the rest of the day, I would have thought you were bonkers. I should explain. Back then I was working full time, commuting in and out of central London most days. Since 23 March I’ve been one of the lucky ones, still working full time, but now at home every day, and with good support.
Very quickly I was busier than ever and office hours extended seamlessly into home time, which was not good. I saw the DLAG volunteering opportunity and jumped at it. It ticked all the boxes: a chance to get out and meet people (safely); flexible slots to choose from; the opportunity to stretch my spine after hours spent bent over a keyboard; and a feeling of being part of something that was really helping people in the community.
Well I thought that was all I was going to get out of it but how wrong could I be? I now have a “SavaCentre family” comprising of DLAG helpers, Sainsburys staff (including the lovely security team) and regular customers, and feel life WILL never go “back to normal” in that respect. I will always remember the kindness of the staff and their strength in difficult situations and will always stop to chat if they remember me. I will continue to talk in awe about how caring they still are to us, and how tricky those customer-focussed jobs are. Respect.
And then there are the customers. Reuniting with people I hadn’t seen for 10 years, and meeting many new friends has been amazing. It turns out that people have very set routines, and doing the same volunteering slot each week has meant I meet the same lovely people over and over again. Regular comments include “hello again, what are you after this week?” and “thanks so much for being here” and other very very kind words and gestures (a chicken shish and chocolates come to mind). We wouldn’t be there without their kindness and even with a mask on, I can see the smiles in their eyes.
So back to the bread. I am absolutely delighted with every tin or apple or onion that gets donated – to me they represent someone who has read our board or listened to our pleas, and have taken the trouble to think about another person, selecting the item, paying for it, and handing it over. It all takes thought and that makes me so happy. I have also realised that I have a secret passion: I LOVE asking for bread. Yes any bread. Hard on the heals is nappies, but bread you get to play tetris with in the boxes, carefully placing each donation in a position where it won’t get squashed and then the stacking… oh my bananas, pure joy. On a really good day you can see the boxes of bread stacking up in the cage, all tucked up like they’re off to bed, ready for the DLAG drivers (love em) to come and pick them up. To see those boxes heading off in safe hands is one of those moments in life, like waving goodbye to your kids at the school gate. I have realised that finding these simple pleasures are what makes me truly happy.
I hope I won’t have to say goodbye to my DLAG family for a long time yet. There are a real mix of personalities and personal situations, and we rub along pretty amazingly when set a goal like this to focus on. Yes we are begging for bread but we are also giving people a chance to chip in and help in a very practical way, and we are offering the help of DLAG to those who need it – telling people who to get in touch with and letting them know that shift after shift and week after week we still care.
Dons Local Action Group, SavaCentre volunteer, July 2020