I have noticed a few things as I’ve dutifully worn my face mask on those rare trips away from home lately. I’ve noticed that instead of getting strange looks from others if you enter a store with a face mask on, those without masks are getting the looks. Also, that you cannot easily tell a person’s mood when half of their face is covered. I miss seeing an approaching stranger in the grocery store aisle smile as they pass. That facial covering not only protects them, and me, from some airborne germ, it also masks our emotions.
My hope is that throughout this long fight and the terrible disruptions to lives that it has brought we have learned a few things. I hope that this whole social distancing experiment has, perhaps, at least provided times of solitude, prayer, and reflection that are rarely afforded our fast-paced lives. That perhaps we have also become reacquainted with those special people who share our homes and who are supposed to share our hopes and dreams.
I really hope we have learned that stocking up on food a bit may be an important type of bank account for our future, and that helping our neighbors is a wonderfully rewarding way to pass a few idle hours.
If you have not yet done so another way to spend those hours is with a great book. Dust off one of those old classics from the hallway bookcase and see what you’ve been missing all these years. The old Bible that has been just a block of paper since some people’s moms took them to Sunday school years ago would be a good place to start.
Also, remember to remember those ‘front line’ folks who carry on their duties in the hospitals, in the nursing homes, at the police departments, and within the cabs of long-haul trucks. Be thankful for the take-out food service and supermarket workers and the faithful teachers who are still trying to educate their students with only an internet connection as a classroom.
Some things we used to do may have changed forever when that ‘old normal’ tries to return. We may never again embrace a casual friend in public or shake the hand of a total stranger when being introduced to them. To me, those changes would not necessarily be bad ones.
We could also try to remember a lesson that many have learned in this time of isolation and forced solitude. That is to appreciate the small and simple things in life and to realize that even those are amazing and complex, and that some of the best things in life aren’t things at all. Years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that I will never forget. Its message simply stated: “Gratitude Is the Best Therapy.” That is a truth I will always cherish.
Soon the stores and restaurants will reopen; people will once again be out and about, and the masks will come off. When this happens, remember to smile.