Delivering Bread During a Pandemic: A Small Story

Delivering Bread During a Pandemic: A Small Story

Written by Emilie

Topics: Support

These days I find myself craving small stories.

I want to hear personal stories about regular people’s everyday quarantine lives. I want to know what conversations people are having in their homes with their loved ones. I want to know about the small gestures of kindness and the personal or emotional revelations people are having. Even the grief and anxiety, as long as it’s on a personal scale, not a global one.

The global facts I’m getting plenty of—it’s the quotidian things I’m fascinated by. Maybe because there’s no such thing as the quotidian anymore. This is going to sound voyeuristic and I don’t mean it in a creepy way, but it’s kind of like I wish I could see into people’s homes and just observe their humanity.

This sentiment was echoed in our editorial meeting last week. While brainstorming article ideas for Puttylike, Claire Nyles, Neil, Kristin and I all found ourselves not wanting to give advice of any sort. The internet is rife with advice right now, and the idea of writing advice pieces didn’t feel right. Plus we’re feeling pretty lost ourselves.

But as Kristin told us about the bad poetry she’s started writing and Neil shared about the weirdness of not seeing another physical person who isn’t a stranger in seven weeks, we were kind of rapt. We wanted more… more small stories about other people’s current reality.

So, that’s what we’re going to be doing for the time being.

I’ll start.

As you know, I live on a remote island on the west coast of Canada. It’s rural and wild (we have a healthy wolf population up here!) and the community is very self-sufficient, open-minded and tight-knit. We know our neighbours, and trading, gifting and bartering is common practice. Most people grow their own vegetables. It’s a lovely lifestyle. The community-oriented nature of this place is one of my favourite things about it.

When the pandemic started, my wife, Valerie, continued doing what she’d been doing for years: baking sourdough bread. (She literally transported her sourdough starter with us in a cooler when we drove 3000 miles to Cleveland last year. Baking bread is not a new hobby for her–though it’s freaking rad that so many other people are doing it now!)

It started with some barters: a loaf for some vegetable starts… A loaf for some fresh eggs… And then it turned into something more. Neighbours started asking, an email went out to our neighborhood list, and soon there were a dozen-or-so neighbours requesting Valerie’s amazing sourdough.

This isn’t a big money-making endeavor. We make enough to cover costs. It’s more like a service—to us as much as to them! Delivering bread to our neighbours has honestly become the highlight of my week.

I’m the driver. I touch our car, the doors, the steering wheel. People leave coolers or baking racks outside their houses, which I touch. Valerie touches only the sanitized tongs, which touch the crispy, golden bread.

Every Monday, we drive around the neighbourhood and drop off 10-12 loaves. Our delivery route takes us along the ocean, by the bay, which is beautiful. Sometimes people come outside and wave. Sometimes we chat over the fence or across the lawn. It feels so good. So good.

I told the team about delivering bread at our editorial meeting last week and everybody grinned and told me to write about it.

Then Kristin said,

“Can you imagine one of us pitching this idea six months ago?”

We all laughed.

Your Turn

Got any small stories to share with us about your daily life right now? Have you had any amazing conversations or personal revelations? I would love to hear about them in the comments. We might even share some of your stories in a new article in the coming weeks.

Emilie Wapnick is the founder and creative director at Puttylike and The Puttytribe, where she helps multipotentialites build lives and careers around ALL their interests. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is the author of the award-winning book, How to Be Everything (HarperCollins), and her TED talk has been viewed 6 million times. Learn more about Emilie here.

39 Comments

  1. Reading this was like an infusion of oxygen, a big inhalation of fresh air. Thank you.

  2. Anna says:

    Awesome!

    I separated from my husband the week before lockdown and I realised on Saturday that I hadn’t touched anyone I loved in a week. So I baked shortbread and delivered it around on my bicycle to friends and neighbours. I keep getting texts as people open and eat their present.

    It cheered up up by bringing something to others too

    Anna x

  3. Susy says:

    I teach art to kids ages 6-18 every week in my home. My focus is more about building confidence and peace into their lives than creating artists. I had to stop classes mid-March and felt the separation from these wonderful kids keenly. My daughter suggested I try Zoom classes to help my students get through this time, as well as myself. Over half the parents jumped at the chance of holding on to this weekly activity for their kids. It’s been a blessing to us all. As one student said “it felt good to have normal conversations with my friends again.”

  4. Ina says:

    Greetings from the Philippines!

    I am a mom of a 2y/o girl. My mom and I run a small private school in the province and we have been greatly affected by COVID-19. We had no more income. A few days after the community quarantine, I came across your TED talk. Finally, I had an answer to my self doubts. And because of your work, I felt alive again.

    Prior COVID-19, I felt “trapped” in my job. Being the multipotentialite that I am, I felt constrained in one day job on top of exclusively breastfeeding my toddler. It was truly exhausting! I wanted to do many things – cook and bake, dance ballet, act again on stage, start a clothing line, and travel. These things I excelled at before motherhood. Don’t get me wrong, my daughter is my life and the best thing that has happened to me. But I miss being a multipotentialite. I had to keep my job at the school because, frankly, it is what put food on the table. It is a stable job. But with COVID-19 in the picture now, schools are closing too.

    Your TED talk changed my life. I learned that I wasn’t alone and that I could be everything I want while being the best mother to my toddler. She needs a happy and fulfilled mother after all.

    I instantly had my creative juices flowing and designed a new Distance Learning Program for our students. I knew that I couldn’t let the families of my students down at a time like this. Schools may close, but education should not stop. With the program I am creating from scratch, we will open new classrooms at the comfort of their own homes. As a teacher in the province, running a distance learning program is very new to everyone.

    I started staying up late at night to design trainings for teachers, instructional materials to support parents who will teach children at home, and even learn marketing tools to keep our school alive.

    Thanks to this community I felt empowered to get back up on my feet in the most difficult time of education history. With limited up to no resources, I am looking forward to sustain the employment of my teachers, help families teach their children, and keep everyone safe and healthy at home.

    • Emilie says:

      Wow wow wow! You’ve totally inspired me, Ina. You’re absolutely right, that it’s important for kids to see their parents engaging with their interests. And I’m so impressed by how inventive you’ve been with the distance learning program. Truly fantastic. Thank you for sharing. And so nice to meet another newly self-identified multipotentialite. :D

  5. Jess says:

    Even though my life didn’t change much since all this started (I’m a graphic designer working remote) I surely felt the weight of this pandemic in many ways. I’m used to be the one who stays home while everybody was out. Now everybody was in with me and didn’t have time to recharge, so I had to fight for silence locked up in a house with a 3 year old jumping around and demanding attention. And endless homework from my older daughter.

    After a month of feeling trapped I found silence in a way I didn’t expected. I started sewing. I love to sew (and a bazillion things more, of course) but I usually get bored of it after a while, and start a new writing/illustrated/animated project instead. But sewing had me on this trance-like state that was relaxing so I kept doing it. I sew many many things (finally all clothes repaired, wooo!) and eventually had to make a few facemasks (mandatory here in Argentina). My husband published a picture of his facemask on facebook and suddenly I had a lot of requests from family and friends.

    So I’m now sewing about a dozen of these to send next week, and I can feel this relaxed and peaceful state and this wierd connection to others through a piece of cloth. Also like the feeling of being helpful even through this tiny contribution. It’s weird, but I think these, the tiny things, are the ones that keep us whole in this strange, strange time.

  6. Maryske says:

    Actually, I *can* imagine you pitching that idea six months ago… But I do like the story – and the idea!

  7. Tanya says:

    I am an international student at a small liberal arts college. We are a very small close knit community with only about 1500 students. Transitioning from experiential learning to online learning was especially difficult for us.

    The pandemic hit us a week after spring break. Everyone had just come back. Our campus was buzzing with activities but suddenly everything was shut down. Within a week students started leaving, buildings were closed and everything was online. It all happened so fast.

    Although I was given an option to leave, I decided to stay on campus for as long as possible. Going home meant taking classes and doing research from the other side of the world. It also meant spending a grand or more to travel. As much as I wanted to see my family, I didn’t have the resources to go back home.

    I was living alone and had minimal contact with anybody. It was difficult to call my parents everyday only to have them worried to death about me. I lost motivation for my classes. Even getting one assignment done seemed like a herculean task. It took me a while to realize how the pandemic had affected me.

    I found solace in making videos and using my creative brain. I stopped watching the news and instead dedicated my time to doing things that warmed my heart. I finished my semester strong and I am now finding other ways to help.

    I contacted my school’s IT helpdesk asking if I could use their 3D printers to make PPEs. I was expecting them to say no, but they didn’t and in fact donated all their materials to me. I think I am just trying my best to stay sane at this point.

  8. Ivona says:

    Emilie, thank you for sharing this story, thank you for being the driving force behind this incredible community.

    Everyone, thank you for commenting and sharing your stories. They’ve brought me some perspective, joy and connection!

  9. Ryan says:

    Hi Emilie,
    I enjoyed this story. I remember your sharing this idea and project a few months ago during one of the chats. Even without the pictures, I and see you and Valerie delivering bread on the island. Keep up the good deeds and good work.

  10. Stephanie says:

    I live in Japan and my husband lives in Toronto. I have been here for nearly two years and my contract is at an end. I was supposed to leave on May 28th, but now all Air Canada flights of Japan have been cancelled. They say there will be flights in June, but they said that about May in April. I’m lucky to have been able to work from home for the last 3 weeks but I may have to go back to the office next week.

    So, I’m not doing much, but every morning, when I wake up, I call my husband on LINE and we video chat. To be honest, we don’t have much to say. He lost his job right before the quarantine and I’m inside most of the time as well. So he tells me about the shows he has watched, the games he’s played. I show him how much progress I have made in the book I’m reading, tell him what I ate, etc. It’s not much, but it means the world to us. I don’t know when I will be able to go home. I’m scared one of us might get sick. In the meantime, our love is digital.

  11. Arta says:

    Hi Emillie,
    This is such a cute story, thank you for sharing. Due to Covid, I had to stop all of my volunteering and I miss it greatly…
    My partner and I purchased some dog food and feed stray animals on our short walks. Makes me feel good, especially when I get those cute snuggles as a thank you.

  12. Wendy says:

    Hi Emilie,

    Thanks for your story, thanks for pitching in to help your neighbors. What a lovely gesture and way to deliver warmth and kindness. I’ve been home from school since March 13. We are a very small private school that focuses on experiential learning, something hard to translate digitally, but we are doing our best. We each devise whatever we think might have an interest and put it up on our google classroom for the entire community (both middle school and high). It’s been interesting, but what my students seem to appreciate most is our two weekly meetings where they can see each other and talk. They are feeling the lack of time markers and structure, as are we all. We are having to create our own structures. When I’m not online with them, I’ve been making masks for my husband’s coworkers at Trader Joe’s and I finally got around to making the elderberry syrup from all the elderberries I froze last season. I’m scared one of us will get sick but all we can do is push forward so onward ho!

  13. Ellie says:

    Wow always am curious to know how life is like in other households as well especially during these times… not to be voyeuristic too, just very curious. I always think invisibility as an ideal superpower for me. ?

    These days I’ve really been exploring mindset as a multi-potentialite and finished my website for now and been posting on Instagram stories but I find myself losing confidence, like I really have no clue what I’m doing even though I’ve laid out a plan before going online and being seen. I still feel the pressure of trying to be, for lack of a better term, basic just because I see it all the time on Instagram… when, I guess, all I’m really looking for is a community of people much like this one who I can actually relate to so thank you so much for starting Puttytribe, Emily… I hope to be as confident as you are in owning my strengths too… ?

    • Emilie says:

      Nooo! Don’t be basic. :D

      Heh, I get what you’re saying about the pressure though. Maybe you can follow some new people on Instagram. Check out the Instagram accounts of pretty much every guest that has ever been on The Limit Does Not Exist podcast.

      Thanks for the kind words and take your time with the multipotentiality stuff. Just enjoy your projects and passions and try not to stress out too much about where things will lead or what others will think.

      • Ellie says:

        Thanks for the podcast rec, Emilie! Excited to listen and most probably binge. Heheh. :D

        Appreciate the kind advice too. :)

  14. Sarah says:

    This is a lovely, simple story. Exactly what I needed to read right now (I wish I could have some of that sourdough, too!).

    My dad passed away at the beginning of December (pre-pandemic), and my mom purchased a condo with the life insurance money. She closed on it towards the end of February and since there was so much to take care of at the house they had been renting (as well as a few improvements needed at the condo), she aimed to be living in her new place by the end of April. It seemed like one day we were picking out tile and carpet and looking at furniture and the next day everything was shutting down! Luckily, things have worked out. Contractors were able to get in (one at a time) and get the work done before her move. She was still able to find movers for the heavy stuff that she and I couldn’t handle. And now she is in her new place – with extra time at home to make it exactly how she wants.

  15. Ellie says:

    Emilie. I am so sorry for spelling your name wrong the first time. *face palm* ?

  16. Helen says:

    Your bread run is AWESOME (and your community sounds amazing)!

    Here on the other side of the globe, in a place that truely feels like the lucky country amidst this pandemic…my neighbours have provided me with a slice of pure luxury whilst I have been at home in isolation with my 2&3yr olds…a takeaway coffee over the fence, pure bliss and a delight to my week….I have also been problem solving and re & re designing my garden & house in my head a lot during this time & a bizillion half started projects!

  17. Yukie Tokuda says:

    This month, the environment of high alert has continued. Meanwhile, the beautiful flowers and the chirping of the birds that I noticed on my way to work on foot were soothing my heart. At that time, I thought it would be obvious

  18. Elisa says:

    Hi Emilie,
    here in northen Italy the measures are still quite stricted.
    We are not allowed to meet our friends, not yet.
    Until last week we was used to go outside only to buy some food / essential products. No phisical exercise outside your home. No bicycle rides.
    Luckily, I have a stubborn, fluffy dog. Willy.
    So I was allowed to walk around (but not too far), always with the protective mask.
    My mind has opened up again, so I was able to catch a lot of new details, colors, movements; and thanks to the recreated silence, when I was walking down the streets and in some fields near my house I clearly listened to: birds, radios, children, arguments…
    So I started making some videos again: Willy’s whims.
    I still smiling.
    Take Care.
    Elisa

  19. Paulina says:

    It’s always a pleasure to read about personal stories where situation/extraordinary circumstances or by other people called ‘fate’ let us discover our hidden potential and create great things, develop new ideas or start heart-warming initatives. I’m very proud of my small personal success, with my partner we redecorated and changed our balcony into our small oasis with access to nature (limited access cause it’s in the block of flats). I was never keen on gardening but suddenly I felt a new need to be outside, on fresh air and yes… playing with soil too. Even though the situation in Poland is not an easy one, I feel lucky that I can spend this hard time with my loved one and make use of our relationship’s potential.
    Take care! I’m sending positive vibes to all of you :)
    Paulina

  20. Michelle says:

    Thank you Emilie, I enjoy reading your emails and articles!
    I’m fortunate to be working from home during the pandemic and I also have my 2 teenage kids home, and my 2 beautiful dogs! We started a daily “family football” game in the backyard, weather permitting, between 1-2pm. My kids and I play catch and chase with our one dog, while the other one hunts chipmunks and squirrels! When the dogs start eating grass (getting bored) we go in for their fav snack, cheese! It’s great to run around for a bit, get fresh air, and clear our heads. It’s something we all look forward to.
    On the weekends, I work on my new hobby, painting vases, from the many mother’s day flowers I’ve received over the years. It’s very relaxing!

    On a different note, pre-pandemic, I’d been thinking of moving to a remote location, not sure where, when my kids are out of the house. Emilie, how did you decide where to move to??

    Sending hugs and prayers to everyone out there. Stay strong, stay creative and stay safe!

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Michelle,

      Your family football game sounds very adorable and fun. :)

      We decided to move to this island for several reasons. Wanted to move back to Canada, but stay on the west coast, we really like the community here and already had a friend who lives here, homes are a lot more affordable here because it’s so remote, great swimming, etc. We did rent on a nearby island for 5 months first. So maybe try renting for a few months in different spots you’re considering? Enjoy! I love rural living.

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