In March, when a lot of us started quarantining and social distancing, I was chatting with a friend about all of the changes, and I happened to mention face masks. Immediately she said, “I would never be caught dead wearing a mask.” I was kind of surprised she already had such firm feelings about it.
As April rolled around, I started making a few face masks, mostly because I can sew and I had people asking for some. I figured it couldn’t hurt to be prepared. A thought came to make one for this friend. The thought kind of terrified me, fearing that by the simple gesture I might offend her. Somehow, though, I got up enough courage, made one and gave it to her. To my surprise, she graciously accepted it. (Whew!) Thinking back, I am really not all that surprised because she is a nice person, but at the time, I had worked myself up to imagine some real fireworks. Later, I asked her if I had offended her by making her a face mask. She chuckled and said she wasn’t offended, but that she didn’t expect to wear it much.
Later however, and being the good friend that she is, she sent me a message and thanked me for making it, in spite of her initial reaction. She said that several times she was happy to have it in her purse since a few places had started requiring masks. She said it made her feel good to have a nice one to pull out and put on, even though she didn’t exactly agree that she needed it.
We have had the occasional discussion about everything going on. She looks at how everyone is acting and reacting, and comments on how it’s all a little overdone (or a lot overdone). She is concerned about the fear that’s being generated by everything. She disagrees with the enormous amount of responsibility being placed on the government to make decisions for us. Even with her own personal beliefs, she has volunteered her time and helped sew face masks for others.
But then, she faced a real challenge as the messages from various leaders in her life have become more direct in saying that we need to wear facemasks in public. She didn’t say this directly to me, but I can imagine that having the same messages of “the other side” coming from people that she respects might have created some feelings similar to betrayal. How could they be saying the same things that all of these overhyped people are saying? How could they be telling her to put on a mask?
It was a few days that we didn’t talk and I wasn’t sure what she was thinking or feeling. When we finally connected again, I asked her how she was doing with this whole thing. “It’s been rough,” she admitted. She explained that at first, she didn’t want to have to go along with what everyone else has been saying. She didn’t want to have to give up her position and her belief that masks aren’t important. She had to take some personal time to reflect and understand why all of this mattered. In the end, she concluded that while she still might not agree with all of what people have been saying, she decided that she wanted to move forward and support the more fundamental things that she believes in.
I share this story not so that you all feel guilty and put your masks on. It’s just that I can’t help admiring my friend. I have reflected again and again on what she did. She went from thinking and believing very strongly one way, to being willing to do something else. That is HARD. That is really hard. I think about the amount of humility it must have taken her. I think about what our communities, and society, would be like if we had more people like her.
I want to be more like her.