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The Face Mask: Living in Fear or Living with Science?

I don’t know about you, but I wonder when I’ll go to the grocery store and not wear a face mask. As it is, I feel I'm braving the wild, wild west, gathering food for my family on my little outings.

Today at Walmart it is a little past 7 a.m. I go early to avoid the crowds, to shop in a cleaner store. I’m buying flannel for Dax’s blanket. I go straight there, so excited to see if by chance they have the pale blue I want for the back. Two beautiful brown women are there, one is showing the other how to cut the fabric, put in the numbers into the machine, and print out a scan code for check out.

They are familiar with one another. Perhaps because the day is fresh, they are happy. I can tell they like one another, they like themselves. We chat. They ask me what I’m making. They don’t sell much flannel in the middle of May.

“A blanket for our first grandson,” my voice cracks.

“Congrats,” says the lady teaching the other. “How exciting.”

“Only I don’t know when we'll be able to see him. They live in Houston.” I’m glad I have my mask on. They don’t see my lower lip quiver. Maybe they hear it in my voice, but they are kind.

“These are hard times, but you’ll see him soon enough.”

I’m warmed by their words; a connection made more difficult through the three masks each of us has covering our faces. My emotions must be close to the surface, as when I go through the rest of the store and see people rambling around, no face mask on, I’m angry. Again, I'm glad my mask covers my face, as there’s no outlet for them to see the rage spilling out of my brain. Glasses on, mask from nose to chin, I’m protected, if not from any germs others may be spewing out, at least from me infecting fellow shoppers with my negative karma.

It’s hard to know what’s right. People need to work. People need to stay healthy. People need to go on. This pause button on life can only be sustained so long. I have heard people can be without water 3 days, food maybe three weeks, depending. But how long without being a knot in the rope of the complicated web of society? How long can we work at home, avoid social gatherings, and other obligations?

How long can we go without physical contact?

I meet a friend at a Goodwill parking lot to give her a book. She dons her face mask--one a mutual friend made especially for her. I’m wearing my blue one with yellowish daisy’s. She lives alone and must need a hug, a human touch. My impulse is to reach over and embrace her, but I don’t. I feel false and selfish. I apologize. I feel small.

How long will this new normal go on?

Last week members of a church ministry, which works with children, gathered via Zoom. We are all Good Shepherd Catechists, which means we sit on the carpet with Montessori-type materials and explore scripture with children. The question: How can we do this in the fall? Can we social distance in the small rooms? Can we properly disinfect the materials between children? How can we best serve?

The group was divided into two: Those who will gather with the children, feeling the worst has past, and the other half, my half, who insisted until science had COVID-19 under control, it would be better to offer our works via virtual meetings.

“I hear all the news, and there’s all sorts of opinions. Who do you want to believe?” One woman explained with fierce determination. “If you want to live in fear, go ahead, not me. I’m in for the children.”

For me and my house we will follow the way of science—and trust the intellect and reasoning God gave us. That does not mean we live in fear, rather we live with reality.


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