Ironically for me, like so many of us in the region, I caught Covid last week and found myself still “staying at home” two years after that first announcement.
Undoubtedly, our national lockdowns changed South Yorkshire society for ever, impacting our mental and physical health, finances, families, community spirit and cohesion.
But I wonder if it changed South Yorkshire culture? I mean, more than a short-term blip.
Some initiatives popped up quickly. In my street a Whatsapp group launched that is still strong today, connecting neighbours in support, checking if people were OK and offering to shop for essentials. A few city-wide groups formed to serve the most vulnerable in our localities. Our existing foodbanks became even more busy.
Anything else lasting? A cultural change means a new kind of behaviour becomes normal. I worry that we are quickly returning to ‘business as usual’ and missing the opportunity to genuinely become a better kind of community. There’s a danger that in 2022 we turn inwards and self-protective, as the cost-of-living crisis begins to bite.
At the start of lockdown the UK church launched a campaign ‘Love Your Neighbour’ to provide food packages locally, which captured the hearts of 2,200 churches and organisations nationwide. It rapidly expanded to become a network of hubs, including Sheffield, coordinating social action projects, debt advice and resourcing their surrounding communities to meet local needs and show love in action. Now it is delivering over one million meals per month. Sometimes Christians are accused of being ‘do-gooders’. I’d love that to be my reputation.
In the bible, St Paul says “Let us not become weary in doing good…as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.” That is the kind of cultural shift, and long-term lockdown legacy, that I’d love South Yorkshire to be famous for.