I’ve been wearing a mask lately (when at work and when I suspect I’ll be interacting with people in the community), and I’ve learned a few things.
- Masks can turn up the heat. Seriously, covering half my face is not the most conducive to refreshing air flow.
- Masks reduce the need for makeup. Sure, eye makeup is still visible, but everything on the bottom half of my face just ends up on the mask anyway.
- Smiles are no longer as obvious. I like to share smiles, but now I have to be more intentional about eye contact and the words I use to encourage others.
- Masks spur a mixture of reactions. (1) I’m not sick. I just don’t want to spread something that I might not even know I have. (2) I’m not fearful. Quite the contrary. I’m comfortable living life as wisely as I can—not just for myself but for the people around me, whether I know them well or not.
- People seem to practice better social distancing when they see someone in a mask. Maybe it’s not always the case; perhaps it’s a visible reminder that respectful behavior is a good thing, but there are people who gave me little space at work who now seem to stand back.
- Masks reveal differences. People like to debate. Masks or no masks? If masks, what kind of masks? If no masks, social distancing? Shelter in place? (…and the steep decline into media, government, conspiracy theories, whose at fault, what freedoms are being trampled, and so on. Why are we such an argumentative and stubborn people?)
- Masks bring people together. Who knows if we really need the massive amounts of handmade masks so many are making, but it sure has brought some people together while they can’t actually be together in support of people and organizations who need a little pick me up right now.
I don’t think I’ll ever look at a mask in quite the same way. I’ve often thought of masks in an abstract way in the context of the guards we put between ourselves and others, the ways we try to protect ourselves and, in the process, step away from authenticity. But masks can do just the opposite. They can draw us together, showing respect for one another and extending a message of “You’re important to me.”
And those of you in the medical field who wear masks all the time? Oh, my. I have a renewed appreciation for you. You are strong as you serve behind those masks. We see and thank you.