Doctors and nurses have been deified. They are the recipients of applause, donations, sincere emotion and gratitude, all around the planet. Our lives are in their hands. We knew this anyway, but it took a pandemic for everyone around the world to realize, at the same time, what is truly important and valuable.
We call them “the heroes behind the masks,” and many of them have died, infected by the new coronavirus. In essence, the only thing we can offer them as a gift at the moment is to stay at home. After this war against the virus has passed, when the invisible enemy has been contained, the real “thank you” will be the strengthening of public healthcare and research. And then, we will be able to evaluate intentions and actions.
We will see then if the mental capacity for understanding and the political and economic perception that defines the life of societies has shifted or remains introverted and focused on self-interest.
The only optimistic message is that, in this informal invitation to support doctors and nurses, there has been a great participation by the public, which has highlighted the hitherto invisible side of everyday life. It was invisible, because, until now, other people monopolized the interest of the media, and were projected as public figures, finding imitators.
That is why every action, big or small, to recognize the new protagonists of public life contributes to something more permanent than the intention to show gratitude: It sets a new standard.
This is evident from the – until recently – unknown Elona Angoli from Albania, who made 600 surgical masks and donated them to Grevena Hospital, to the Onassis Foundation, which secured 13.5 million protective masks, and from the National Opera, which donated 20,000 free tickets for its shows to doctors and nurses working in the national healthcare system, to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which donated 100 million dollars as part of a global initiative to alleviate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has shown that knowledge, scientific devotion, commitment and modesty are a natural characteristic and not tools of public relations and mindless politics. And this is perhaps the first time that the applause contains praise and encouragement, as well as the awareness that the work being done is a matter of life and death, unpredictable and lasting.
The people who have taken center stage are those who have learned to work without spectators, to perform without applause.