Who knew a national round of applause could be so therapeutic? One writer explains why we all felt very emotional after last night’s national clap for our NHS workers.
At 7:55 pm last night, I left the door to my tiny balcony slightly ajar, ready to pop my head out and send a few quiet claps into the darkness. #ClapForOurCarers was due to start in five minutes to celebrate our NHS workers, but I just didn’t think we’d all do it. Surely, we’re all too anxious, fed up and worried to be standing around clapping right now? (…or is that just me?) A lot of people in my block of flats have kids, so I just assumed they’d be wrestling with their new evening routines. And, let’s be honest, us Brits do have a reputation for being a bit, well, “self-conscious” when it comes to expressing our emotions.
In fact, if I’m completely honest, I even felt a bit embarrassed. I’m living on my own at the moment, so I pictured myself, a lone figure, making the sound of the saddest claps ever. And I wasn’t the only one. My friends and family sent texts saying the exact same thing.
But what happened next literally brought me, and the rest of the UK, to tears.
Ahead of schedule, the sound of claps started to ripple across Hackney. If there’s one thing this nation can commend itself on: we are always punctual. I jumped up to join them as it grew louder and louder. Within seconds, residents around my courtyard were clapping, cheering and making some serious noise from their balconies. A firework even went off at one point. My neighbours, who are so cool that I am genuinely too scared to speak to them, came out and started chatting with me.
Despite those thoughts of “I’m going to be the only one clapping on my street”, everyone I knew still went out there and did it. Stylist’s fitness editor Meriam shared a video of her triumphantly clapping outside her window to an otherwise silent street. And my brother sent me a video of him doing the exact same thing from his flat on a highstreet in a North Yorkshire town.
My heart raced, my face smiled and, for the first time in weeks, I cried. I feel like I’ve been holding my breath under water ever since the pandemic started, with each new worry about a family member, panic over a terrifying headline and sadness about the latest death toll. But those sounds – the determined claps, the hopeful cheers, the kid downstairs who kept banging on a pot a good five minutes longer – were the gulp of fresh air I so desperately needed. As I’ve not had human contact for two weeks, I felt the warmth and comfort that only a bear hug would usually give.
The sobs rolled out and it was such a relief.
Of course, this isn’t at all about me. But after speaking with friends, family and colleagues, we all went through a similar emotional journey last night. People quickly shared their videos online, admitting that they too couldn’t believe how much a round of applause could lift their spirits.
And to NHS workers, it must have meant even more.
Clapping isn’t going to cure coronavirus. It’s not going to create ventilators. And it’s not going to take the daily pressures off the NHS. But it will keep us going. It will give us hope. It will remind us that we are in this together, that we’ve got each other’s backs.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last few weeks, it’s to not underestimate anybody. That includes the 400,000 people who have signed up the be NHS volunteers, the 11,700 retired doctors, nurses and health professional have returned to the NHS, and the countless individuals who are helping people in their communities.
So I’m sorry I ever doubted the idea that we’d all come together and clap. It’s the very least we can do for the real superheroes out there.