For the past couple of weeks, every night at exactly 7:30 p.m. people in my midtown Toronto neighbourhood have been going outside on their balconies to make some noise in support of our dedicated and courageous health care workers.
The nightly thank you began in Italy and Spain, with enthusiasm for the idea quickly catching on in other countries. When it first began in my neighbourhood, I went out on my balcony to see what was happening, and I was amazed at all of the Canadian flags flying, and all the people waving and cheering from other balconies. Since then, each night it seems to get louder and louder, with people finding new, creative ways to make noise.
I myself started as a quiet observer, marvelling at the positive energy I could feel around me at a time when we must all band together by keeping apart.
I wanted to participate but at first I wasn’t sure what to use as my noisemaker. I finally decided upon making a sound commonly heard at weddings, when guests clink their spoons on their wine glasses as an invitation for the newlyweds to kiss.
The new nightly balcony ritual has become part of our daily routine and is a welcome break from trying to remain in isolation. After staying in seclusion for most, if not all, of each day it is actually nice to go outside and see other people, albeit from a very safe distance.
As it has been so eerily quiet lately — especially in a neighbourhood like mine which is usually vibrant and bustling — the nightly noise-making reassures us lots of other people are alive and well and that we are, in fact, all in this together. For those five minutes every night people forget their troubles and feel happy. Instead of singing the blues, we are singing the praises of those who deserve it most.
Music to my ears
From what I have heard thus far, the noise is not generally made using actual instruments, but rather a combination of cheers, bells, fog horns and clanking pots and pans. Even so, it is music to my ears that sometimes brings a tear to my eye.
While the purpose of the cheering is mainly to express appreciation to health care and front line workers, it is also a reminder of some of the other people we have to be thankful for, such as the many hard workers who make it possible for us to continue to do our drugstore and grocery shopping, people who are putting themselves at risk every day so the rest of us can eat and stay healthy.
Each night at 7:30, as people stand on their balconies in solidarity ,no matter the weather, it marks another day that we made it through without getting sick. It is another day when those of us who are fortunate enough are literally still standing, largely in part due to the collective efforts most people are making with respect to social distancing.
For me, it is also one more day that I can breathe a sigh of relief that my parents and husband are still okay, as well as my other relatives and friends. I am grateful that, although being home together 24 hours a day, seven days a week does come with its challenges, I have someone to isolate with nonetheless.
Last but not least, I am even extremely grateful I even have a balcony to escape to in the first place, especially on the many days where I would not have otherwise gotten any fresh air at all.
I look forward to the day when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, so people living in every single neighbourhood all around the world can go outside on their balconies and cheer so loudly in celebration that everyone will be able to hear each other.
Until then, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get ready for the most exciting part of the evening.