Let me start off by saying our carers are amazing. Those who work in our NHS, in our care homes, hospices and in the community along with those in key job roles in wider society are risking their health day in and day out to help our nation survive during this awful pandemic.
As I write we are approaching 8pm on a Thursday evening which has continued to be a moment of appreciation for those working in difficult conditions to keep us safe. My neighbours will attest, I'm sure, to my sporadic turn out for the regular clap. Partly this is down to absent mindedness but if I'm honest I have not felt comfortable about the whole thing from the start. If I have clapped I have done so in a sombre fashion from my porch.
It's not that I don't want the NHS staff and others to feel appreciated for what they are doing for us, rather I worry that clapping has become a way of making us feel like 'we are doing our bit.' We clap and then go back in doors not having to think about those who make our lives significantly better for another week. Those who don't turn out are at risk of being clap-shamed, which to me highlights the problem of the clapping distracting from real issues surrounding the well-being of our NHS staff and other key workers.
Today in the Guardian an anonymous doctor writes:
What I don’t find nice, and I really don’t need, is people clapping. I don’t need rainbows. I don’t care if people clap until their hands bleed with rainbows tattooed on their faces. I don’t even (whisper it) need Colonel Tom, lovely man as he clearly is.
I know many of my colleagues appreciate the clapping, saying that they feel moved and grateful, that the coming together of the community to support the NHS warms the heart. There are others, like me, whose response is that it is a sentimental distraction from the issues facing us.
The issues are well documented: lack of PPE, lack of testing, a chronically underfunded NHS, low public sector pay... the list goes on. Workers in other sectors such as retail work for a 'living wage', which leaves them impoverished at worse or just about managing at best. We can't expect clapping to sort these issues out, we are not in Peter Pan.
Clap if you wish but if you do make sure that those you are uplifting remain in your hearts and on your minds for the rest of the week. Do not let clapping be the beginning and the end of your appreciation.
What I shall do instead is write to my MP, write letters, sign petitions, pray and try in some small way to speak truth to power. It is part of every Christian's calling in life to bring about justice, mercy and peace and we have to be alert to ways in which we might improve these things in our world. We cannot stand idly by as Ministers and MPs who could change the working lives of health (and other key) workers for the better publicly clap on a Thursday evening and do nothing to help those in need for the rest of the week. It is quite frankly an insult to those we wish to uphold.