A Matter of Need

A Matter Of Need? – Mike Levy

I wonder how lockdown was for you, whether you are a young person, a parent, a carer, teacher, youth worker or ….. anyone else?

For me, lockdown version 1.0 was not too bad.  It was totally new. It was enjoyable to learn new skills, upgrade the Wi-Fi and have the feeling that we were somehow all in this together, bumbling along, learning on the hoof. Creating a new structure, making time to walk or cycle, exploring the place we live in and having the surprise of meeting people along the way and catching up with them without having to plan a time and place in advance. People helped each other out by collecting shopping or prescriptions. It was a time for taking pleasure in small things and needs seemed relatively easy to meet.

Then a new reality kicked it as the novelty wore off, inequality of access to the tools needed to ‘do’  life became apparent, numbers at our local Foodbank grew, people started losing jobs, questions arose over access to meals for young people, mental health issues rose and, as time went by, it seemed like almost all of us knew someone who had become ill with COVID. Suddenly needs were all around and they seemed more complex.

Amidst all of this those of us who are youth workers had the difficulty of seeing young people disengage from on-line ‘provision’ as no matter what innovative ways we tried there is no substitute for relationship and any relationship works best when it is face to face, spending time with each other, talking, listening – being there for each other. People need people.

At some point during all this, I was reminded of the all- time classic ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”.  In a nutshell this piece of work by psychologist Abraham Maslow, in 1943, says that everyone has five levels of needs that come in a particular order. First, we have the basic physiological need for air, water, food, sleep, clothing and shelter – basic things that help us stay alive. Then we work up the hierarchy through things like security, belonging and self-esteem. We can, and do, debate any model such as this and lockdown got me thinking about how life is not as simple as this, about how quickly our needs can change when life gets tough and how what we once thought of as ‘givens’ are not.

Somewhere in all this, as difficult as the last year has been, there have been bright spots, there have been positives and there have been times to laugh. The Zoom calls that have gone badly wrong, lockdown hairstyles, the neighbour who unexpectedly arrives at your door with cake, someone simply saying, ‘thank you’. Then, I came across this re-working of the hierarchy of needs, written by a youth organization. Once our basic needs for food and clothing are met, it suggests, our lockdown needs could be illustrated in this way.

Mike is the Youth Pastor of Thornbury Baptist Church and a Mentor for PHASE