Off the Shelf: Horton Hears a Who

Every night at 7 pm, we open our windows wide, clap and hoot and holler for the folks who continue to put their lives at risk, working in hospitals, acting as first responders, or even just manning grocery stores and drug stores. It’s our virtual parade for people that are doing so much for those of us whose contribution is locking ourselves in our apartments and not going nuts.

Across from me, an older woman leans out her window, and a younger guy a little further down. A mother, her husband and small child, appear on a fire escape (“cast iron balcony” in real estate parlance). In the courtyard below, people with “garden” apartments escape out their back doors and pace around tiny patios, smoking and cheering. Down the block, I can hear others beating pans and somewhere around a corner, a car toots its horn.

“Thank you,” we shout inarticulately. “Thank you!”

My husband works in office job for a hospital system and, earlier this week, I overheard the CEO of this system on a Town Hall, tell his workers that he knew they were in the thick of it, and it’s overwhelming, but that New York is grateful. And he asked if they heard us shouting every day, during shift change, and knew that we were shouting to them, and to everyone else who had to keep doing their jobs while the rest of us worked from home or went on furlough, or dealt with the pain of unemployment.

And that’s what this shout is for.

It also gives me a chance to off steam in a building where, when I went down to the laundry room the other day, my neighbor emerged from her apartment to complain that I had slammed the door. (I had and apologized.) And kept complaining, stating that it happens all the time. All the time? I hadn’t been out in weeks. Literally. It feels good to scream and make noise, instead of tiptoeing around. It feels good to let off a lot of noise.

And it also reminds me of Horton Hears a Who.

The story, if you are unfamiliar with it, involves Horton, an elephant, who one day hears a small cry. He looks around and sees a spec of dust falling, and catches it on the top of a clover flower. He realizes that the spec of dust is a whole world, filled with people (“Who’s”) and vows to protect it. He holds onto the flower with all his might, as his friends and families and neighbors try to rip it from his trunk because they don’t believe him. It isn’t until all the Who’s together, shout, “We’re here! We’re here!” that Horton’s community hears them and realizes that he was right – there are people living on the spec of dust.

I feel like an insignificant, invisible person, living on a spec of dust falling madly toward oblivion, held from disaster only by the kind observation of a creature so large that I can’t even imagine it.

Each night, to avoid being torn from his protection, I stick my head out the window and clap and shout with all my might, Hooray! Whoop! Whoop! Hoo-eee!

Saving myself and my world for one more day.

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