Thursday, April 2, 2020

At 8pm in my neighborhood, we salute

Every evening at 8pm, my neighbors and I go out on our porches, front steps, onto the sidewalk, to clap for frontline workers in this global pandemic. We clap our hands. We hoot. Someone has brought out a harmonica. Next, I'm certain someone will bring a drum.

Mostly, we are thinking of those who go to work in a hospital every day: The doctors and the nurses and the orderlies and the food service people and the cleaning crews, the security guards and the EMTs and the maintenance people. But it doesn't just stop with the health care profession. Of course we think of the police and fire as well. But what about the garbage collectors, and the mail man and the Amazon delivery drivers, and all the public transit employees? And what about all the people, young and old, who work in grocery stores every day, stocking the shelves and especially the cashiers? They are truly on the front line. Risking their lives.

The ritual first started in Italy I believe, as they became inundated with dead and sick, they thought it important to say thank you.

Someone down the street from me in Cambridge picked up the tradition, emailed some friends and instigated it among us. 8pm. Sharp. Outside. To clap. To say thank you.

It's nice. Some might say it's trite or misses the point. For one, I'm not sure any front line workers live near enough to hear us.

But in some ways that's not the point either. The days are long, and sometimes lonely. The internet helps, but only in the way that a mediated communication helps -- screens are good but not quite the same. There's nothing like being in a room with another person, and now, that's no longer possible.

The clapping in the end may be as much for us as for anyone else. It may be our little moment of solidarity, to say to ourselves, we will get through this, somehow, with our dignity and our humanity intact. Our communities not destroyed. Our sense of purpose reexamined but still undimmed. Perhaps its our way of saying to each other, we're still here. Don't worry, we're still here.

Anyway, if you've got a neighborhood that might support something like this, I recommend it. It's oddly confirming in a time when so much of our assumptions of safety are being torn apart.

I was even thinking of putting a little blue light in my window, as a way of saying, here's a light of recognition.