The kindness of strangers is remarkable and heartwarming
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A few days ago, my postman delivered an A5 envelope from the NHS. Could this, I wondered, be the longed-for vaccine notification? It was.
Much to my amazement, as I read the letter inviting me to go online and book my jabs, my eyes filled with tears. Now, I don’t weep easily, but suddenly, I felt overwhelmed, both with gratitude and a sense of belonging. I think, subconsciously, I’d been worrying that, somehow, I might get forgotten in the hugeness of this endeavour. But here was evidence that I was remembered, and that I mattered, and that the NHS was going to scoop me up and look after me as it is looking after all of us.
It was a momentous feeling. And then I heard that my brother, who lives 150 miles away, was booked in for his vaccine on the same day as me. And having just put away my damp hankie, I had to get it out again as I had a little cry about that too!
There has been much to criticise about the handling of the pandemic, but we are lucky that world class scientists, in the UK and elsewhere, have worked flat out to produce vaccines that are our tickets out of chaos. And we are also more than fortunate that the NHS is super-organised and delivering this programme so efficiently.
I know I’m not alone in feeing emotional about this. I keep seeing social media posts that express the same joyous and tearful gratitude. Yesterday I noticed a Tweet that read: ‘So far today I have cried five times.’
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As a therapist, I can tell you that I’ve often seen people get through the most turbulent of difficulties – loss of work, major illness, the death of a partner, the necessity to move countries for safety – and I’ve witnessed how they discover qualities within themselves they never knew they possessed, in order to cope with their trauma. Interestingly, the same adults frequently become quite wobbly when they emerge from their troubles. It’s as if they can then process and acknowledge how close they came to ‘going under’.
I think we’re wobbling now – after months of uncertainty and fear – as the tide turns and we begin to visualise a more optimistic future. And I’ve found myself thinking (with a lump in my throat) about Churchill, and what he said in 1942: ‘This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’
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To return to the vaccine, the rollout has been nothing less than extraordinary and almost everyone who has had a jab has a touching tale to tell.
A friend of mine was vaccinated at a hospital in the north east, by a nurse who was a family friend.
He expressed surprise at seeing her, because normally she works in a mental health unit. Then she told him that every day she was doing her normal shift in the unit, before working as an unpaid volunteer for several hours in the vaccination department. My friend found himself weeping as he left.
Someone else I know was completely overcome when she noticed how old the people were who were running the vaccine centre in her hometown. It turned out they were mostly former doctors and nurses who had come out of retirement to do their bit.
And health policy analyst, writer and broadcaster Roy Lilley, was similarly moved by his experience at the Excel Covid-19 vaccination centre, when he saw for himself just how many volunteers were involved on a day-to-day basis, and how motivated and motivational they were.
He said: ‘The last time I saw such an evangelical commitment to helping people on this scale, was during the London Olympics where the volunteers won the hearts and minds of global visitors.’
The summer of 2012 seemed a golden time for so many of us – a golden time we feared we had lost.
And yet, throughout the pandemic, masses of people have been reaching out to help others, whether it’s been by giving food or money to local food banks or by donating to various charities. The Suffolk Community Foundation, for example, has announced that it’s been able to distribute over £1.75 million, to over 420 charities, community groups and good neighbourhood schemes thanks to the generosity of the local population who have stepped up their efforts to support others during the crisis.
On top of that, huge numbers of individuals have cooked for neighbours, shopped for folk they barely knew, helped someone else’s child with home-schooling, produced newsletters, created community quizzes, tidied up pensioners’ gardens and generally volunteered in whatever way they could. And now, we have thousands of volunteers turning out to boost the NHS and ensure the success of the vaccination project.
The kindness of strangers is truly heart-warming and remarkable. No wonder we’re feeling emotional.