It began with one clap, then two, then three – then dozens resonated in unison above the streets of Boston on April 3, 2020 as part of the #ClapBecauseWeCare initiative encouraging people around the globe to pause and show appreciation and encouragement for essential workers helping to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
While some people simply clap as others sing, cheer, or bang pots, the intention is clear: a "thank you" to those tirelessly working to care for the ill, keep grocery stores open, and city streets safe.
Community cheer events first started in Wuhan, China, in mid-January when quarantine measures took effect. Then the practice took off in Italy, where residents added singing and waving flags. As the pandemic swept the globe, citizens around the world have continued cheering together.
The sounds of gratitude can be heard from windows and balconies all around the world. France, Spain, Canada, England, Italy, Turkey, and India have all been clapping in unison regularly these past few weeks – even the British royals from inside Kensington Royal Palace joined the movement.
Usually organized through local social media groups, there are little instructions other than enthusiasm and gratitude.
“Feeling frustrated sitting at home, while others are risking their lives on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak? Well, there is something you can do as you continue – hopefully – self-quarantining,” says the Facebook event description for Massachusetts, which hopes to draw people to cheer every Friday evening at 7 p.m. “Clap. That’s right, clap for the health care workers, first responders, nurses, grocery store employees, those keeping our public transit running, truck drivers & many more who are stepping up to keep us safe during these unprecedented times.”
Many city neighborhoods are also breaking into song, such as this rendition of “Lean on Me” that reverberated across the skyline in a New York neighborhood, a timely tribute to its composer Bill Withers, who died on March 30:
“It warms my heart. It has been really good to hear. I know people are grateful for my friends on the front lines doing this work,” mental health nurse Matt Mendelow, who is quarantined in his apartment as he recovers from COVID-19, told CBS New York. “Like clockwork, the last few nights there’s been this intense noise hooting and hollering.”
And the cheers don't come solely from outside hospitals. In a video from the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital of Barcelona, hospital staff can be seen applauding their cleaning staff – reminding everyone of their importance in this battle. In another video, workers in a Spanish hospital gather to give a round of applause after their first patient recovered from the virus and left the facility.
In some cases, health care workers themselves are singing between shifts. Dr. Elvis Francois of the Mayo Clinic performs a soulful John Lennon's “Imagine" on YouTube wearing hospital scrubs, as a colleague accompanies on the piano. And in a hospital in Cambridge, England, a nursing apprentice sings "Rise Up," by Andra Day, on the piano, a powerful song of hope: "All we need, all we need is hope. And for that we have each other."
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