IF someone had told me at the start of this year that every Thursday evening I’d be standing outside my house, clapping for people I’ve never met, I’d have said: “Er, I don’t think so.”

And when the 8pm Clap for Carers first became a thing, I found it a bit awkward. There weren’t many out on my street, no cowbells or saucepan drums, the clapping was self-conscious, and I just wanted it to be over. “It’s a bit much. People didn’t spend the war clapping on their doorsteps for soldiers,” said a friend, and I kind of agreed.

But by the second week, as the clock ticked towards 8pm, someone was banging a pan and I was chatting to neighbours I’d barely noticed before. I met a couple at the end of the street whose daughter is a nurse, there was both pride and worry etched on their faces, and a man whose father is in a care home and can’t understand why he’s not getting any visitors.

By week four of the clap, my aunt was in hospital, initially diagnosed with Covid. Fearing the worst, with a lump in my throat, I clapped for the NHS staff, over-worked, exhausted, demoralised, who were treating her. Last week my aunt died and I think of her final days in a hospice when, with her family not allowed near her, it was strangers in masks who made the end of her life as comfortable as it could be.

It is those strangers in masks that we clap for on Thursdays. We don’t know them, but many of us have known the NHS in some way and have much to be grateful for, and we clap because they’re risking their lives in this crisis - in hospitals, hospices, care homes - and we know we couldn’t do it.

But the 8pm applause is also for the ordinary people doing extraordinary things in this time of crisis. While we must pay tribute to medical staff and care workers, there are unsung heroes among us too - food bank volunteers packing up handouts; those on the end of a ‘phone line bringing comfort and a human voice to the elderly, isolated and chronically lonely; teachers and support staff going into schools; people giving up their time to deliver groceries for neighbours; and shop workers keeping shelves stocked and social distancing in place, while managing to be patient and polite to customers who don’t always deserve it.

Right now there is kindness and friendliness; even if it’s just saying “Morning” with a smile as we cross the road to avoid each other.

To celebrate this community spirit, and the people who don’t always get the credit they deserve, the Telegraph & Argus has been asking readers to nominate people - family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbours - who are going the extra mile to tackle the coronavirus crisis, ease suffering, or just bring cheer into someone’s day.

This week we’ve been running profiles of our ‘Bradford Heroes’. They include a young doctor at Bradford Royal Infirmary who, when she’s not working 12-hour shifts on a Covid-19 ward, is shopping for her mother, who’s recovering from breast cancer. And a pharmacist in Heaton who, after working a 10-hour day, delivers medication to those who can’t get out.

And a chap who “has been a real friend in these hard times” for his neighbour, who has cystic fibrosis and is self-isolating.

I’ll be honest; the Thursday clap still makes me feel a bit awkward, but I’m doing it anyway. Heading outside for a few minutes, once a week, to show my appreciation for not just healthcare professionals but those ordinary folk who go the extra mile is a small gesture, but one that means the world.