Lockdown Journal: Day 29 (Exchange of Humanity)

by | Apr 24, 2020 | COVID-19, Johannesburg | 17 comments

If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts.

It’s lockdown day 29. I’m going to tell you a story I meant to tell yesterday but forgot.

Note from Kelvin
Lockdown photo 29: A note from Kelvin.

I mentioned in previous posts that I periodically place bags of food outside my gate for whoever comes along. I include whatever I have laying around: half a loaf of bread, a box of crackers, an orange, a tomato, a can of tuna, chocolate brownies. I try to buy extra food each time I go to the store so I always have a few things ready.

Usually the bag disappears within an hour or two. But on Tuesday I put my bag out a bit late and I guess it got dark before anyone saw it.

Yesterday (Thursday), I pulled into the driveway after coming back from food-shopping and noticed a crumpled piece of paper near the car. (I almost didn’t see it because there are so many leaves in my driveway. I really need to deal with those.)

I unfolded the paper and it was the note above, written on the “Please take” sign I had put out with the bag of food on Tuesday evening.

The note reads:

Thanks so much for the food parcel which you left out this morning
Am the one who took it
My name is Kelvin am a handyman from Malawi
& I have lots of references around here in Melville
Life is tough now as there are no jobs.
God bless and he must fill the gap you took out these food
073 481 5774

As I’m typing this, I’m suddenly thinking that rather than blogging about Kelvin I should really just call him, say hello, ask how I can help. I don’t have work for a handyman right now — no one does — but I could pay him in advance for something I might need later.

The thought of doing this also overwhelms me. Right now, giving out these bits and pieces of help feels like trying to push an 18-wheeler truck up Mount Everest.

The other weird thing, now that I’m thinking about it, is notes like this are nothing new. I’ve received lots of neatly handwritten notes from people like Kelvin pushed through my mail slot over the years, long before the pandemic ever happened. But now something has changed and I’m not able to ignore the notes. I’m not able to block the feelings I should have had all along.

Yesterday when I first found the note, I posted a photo of it in my Instagram story. Several people commented, including my friend Micaeli who writes beautiful poems and reads them on Instagram.

Micaeli wrote, “That is a beautiful exchange of humanity.” I like the sound of that.

I’ve just texted Kelvin and we’re in touch. I told him I’m posting his information on the blog. If anyone needs a handyman, you know who to call.

Snowdrops in garden
Today’s garden photo. These just started to bloom…I’m not sure what they’re called in South Africa, but in America we have similar flowers called snowdrops that bloom in spring.

COVID-19 in South Africa

In his speech to the nation last night, President Ramaphosa announced a series of lockdown “levels” that will go into effect once our current lockdown ends. The levels are numbered 1-5, with 5 being a complete lockdown (what we’re on now) and 1 being basically back to “normal”.

We’ll enter level 4 on May 1st, which means more businesses will be allowed to open, cigarettes (but not alcohol) will be sold again, and people can exercise outside their homes under controlled circumstances. Everything else will remain more or less the same.

This is big news. But the biggest story from Ramaphosa’s speech was not what he said, but what he did. After explaining that all South Africans should wear face masks when they leave their homes, the president donned a stylish cloth mask before bidding the nation good night and leaving the podium.

However, the president’s mask-donning performance did not play out as expected.

Also, who wrote this part of the speech? Whoever did should be forced to recite, “the making of masks on a mass scale” 100 times over at the next team meeting. Poor prez.

Anyway thank you, Mr. President. We all know these masks are a pain to put on and wear, especially when you’re tired (which I’m sure you are). You demonstrated a struggle we’re all experiencing — both literally and figuratively — and humanized yourself in the process.

You also created a beautiful exchange of humanity, Mr. President, as Kelvin did. I don’t agree with every single thing you’re doing. But I can see you’re a person and I like that.

Thank you, Mr. President, for giving us all a much needed laugh (and an endless supply of mask memes), and for having the humor and grace to laugh at yourself after the fact. I wish more world leaders, especially a particular orange one, would follow your example. (Sadly I know he won’t.)

Today’s Worthy Cause

Today’s worthy cause is the African Children’s Feeding Scheme, a South African NGO currently working to distribute food parcels to families in Soweto and Alex. One food parcel costs R362 and feeds a family of four for two weeks. I think this cause speaks for itself.

To donate to ACFS, click here.

Have a wild Friday night.


  1. Lesley Clark


  2. Di Brown

    That note sums it up. Beautiful post Heather. Thank you for sharing your lockdown experiences every single day. One day we will look back on these posts and remember this tough time with gratitude. It forced change. we changed, our country changed, the world changed… for the better. That is my belief, and it is what drives me to keep on keeping on, with hope.

  3. Margaret Urban

    One if the things I miss since moving to ‘flat land’ is being able to put things I no longer need outside my place; in Bez Valley I knew they would find new homes. Perhaps after lockdown I can occasionally use your verge?

  4. PEGGY

    Great blog Heather. We are donating a small pack of mealiemeal and tin of pilchards to all that come to our gate. Some tell me they have queued for the Soup Kitchen or queued for Food Parcels but everyone runs out. It is a desperate situation and everyone has a story to tell.

    • 2summers

      Thanks Peggy. I know it’s heartbreaking. I guess we all just have to do what we can.

  5. Lani

    It’s a different animal when someone simply takes things anonymously to then communicating. It sounds like you did the right thing – sharing and then making contact that was comfortable for everyone involved.

    I think S.AF and Thailand are on the same lockdown levels schedule. There’s talk about opening some businesses, provinces where there haven’t been any cases and places where the risk has been low. We haven’t had a case in 14 days, so we’re looking good.

    Take care!

    • 2summers

      Not cases for 14 days in the area where you live? I think the might also assign different lockdown levels in different parts of the country here, as some areas are hardly affected.

  6. Nikki

    Love this story. It is these tendrils of connections that we don’t always notice in our lives that are suddenly really important. We need to keep at it to weave a stronger fabric for our society after the crisis. I just wrote a story about car guards and golf caddies which has resonated with a lot if people. Everyone appears determined to work harder at paying attention. Hope it lasts.

    • 2summers

      I read your story. Beautiful 🙂

  7. Catrina

    Thanks for taking care of Kelvin.
    I’d be most excited about exercising outdoors! Only a few days to go.
    Our small businesses (hairdressers, beauty salons, dentists, physiotherapists, etc) will open next week.

    • 2summers

      Yes I’m excited too. Sadly parks still won’t be open but I’ll be happy to run on the street.


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