I’ve just been out to clap for the NHS.
Actually, I didn’t because I got tied up with something else – but I did get out there just after the clapping. It was the “10th Clap” and it is billed as the last one. That’s probably a good decision; far better to stop on a high, rather than let it peter out dismally.
We were all out there on the street. We clapped, rang bells, beat drums.
All to say “thank you” to the NHS. It has become a bit of a tradition – but hang on… how does that say “Thank You” to a huge organisation? Is the NHS there to listen? Did an ambulance pass by to hear? Did a District Nurse pause to hear my clap?
My clap is an almost insignificant part of The National Clapping and few, even at my end of the road will have spotted that I was late. The whole Walker Close contribution was small – it’s not one of the places that would have attracted the media cameras like the big crowds in the large blocks of flats do. I’m not one of the crowd outside Airedale, clapping individual nurses and doctors.
Was there really any point in me turning out on the doorstep and making my hands sore?
Perhaps the fact that I’ve turned out for ten Thursdays at 8.00pm gives some idea of my answer.
First of all, it has been a catalyst for community. We were all out there on the street; neighbours we barely glimpse in normal times. And afterwards we have learned to stay out at the front gate and chat. I’ve learned what Yolande enjoys and how Karen is getting on. Peter has rejoiced in the recovery of Hilly, his wife and Ruth has offered her spare French Bean plants. It hasn’t been the only catalyst but we are now, mostly, linked on social media. We’ve had some silly Quiz Nights!
At a level, rather deeper even than that, it has made me think about prayer and our relationship with God and God’s family. We have stood out there, an outward and visible sign. We have stood there, communicating in some strange way with a big organisation that we can neither see nor hear – but which we know exists.
It would be easy to mock and to wonder aloud what possible difference it could make to the world if I go down to the end of my drive and flap my hands around on the end of my arms. But the fact is that it does make a difference. Doctors and nurses and carers I shall never meet and in places I shall never visit are enriched because I clapped. Not only that, but there are people here, on my road, who are enriched because we clapped together.
There’s a danger in taking analogy too far. But it does make you stop and think a bit.
When I get to my knees (these days, only metaphorically, I’m afraid), it is easy to wonder what difference it can possibly make. I may pray in the privacy of home or I may come out, as it were, to the end of the drive and share my prayer with others. I can only do that, at the moment, through a computer screen but, along with you all, I’m looking forward to the moment when we can join together under the ancient slates of St Andrew’s.
In whatever way I join my prayer to the countless prayers of others, I can know that it makes a difference.
We can find a lot to be thankful for in this strange lock-down world. Our household could be said to be in clover. We last filled the car in April. We’re breathing cleaner air and we can hear the birds. With a steady pension and no shops, our bank balance is breathing a sigh of relief. We have a comfortable house with a garden and no cabin-fever children. Despite a yearning to see grandchildren, we’re comfortably placed.
Unlike many who are locked into a lonely and restricted dungeon-space.
We were forcibly ejected from our well-trodden ruts by the extraordinary events of the past few months and we must now begin to imagine a new world with none of the ills of the old and all of the good of the new. That’s not easy. While I rejoice in the sight of all those parked aeroplanes, not pumping gases into our atmosphere, a neighbour bewailed her holiday in Tenerife; “we really need those aeroplanes back in the sky”. The trouble with Utopia is that my Utopia is probably quite different from your Utopia (I’ll guess yours doesn’t have a bell tower in it!) And all of us have to share in a common Utopia.