Over the past week, most major retailers across the United States finally took measures to require face masks in order to enter their stores.
It was without a doubt a good business decision in addition to being the right thing to do.
These retailers took these measures to ensure the safety of their employees, first and foremost, but they've also calculated that the faster we are able to reduce the spread of COVID, the faster we can truly "re-open" our society, they can truly get back to business.
However, the move was a wake-up call for many people, and it absolutely shed light on the fact that the simple act of wearing a mask drastically reduces the possibilities of spreading COVID.
For my part, all it took was one trip to the store where I forgot my facemask and had to cruise on back home to get it, and now I have facemasks stashed all over the place---in my car, in my backpack, in various parts of my house.
Recently, I watched a spate of videos where people entered grocery and retail stores, refusing to "mask up," and then launched into angry, hate-filled tirades when they were told they couldn't enter.
It's hard for me to feel charitable toward those who seem to have so little regard for the well-being of others that they would not be willing to make the slightest concessions of their own "liberty" for something as noble as the "common good."
It reminded me of a Gaelic proverb I encountered not too long ago that goes something like this:
Nothing is easy for the unwilling.But as I watched those videos, I had an unexpected epiphany that softened me a bit. I realized that underneath all of their anger, bluster, and speeches about their personal freedom they were afraid... and grieving... and sad... just like the rest of us.
It's no excuse for their lack of regard for others, mind you, but still... I suddenly saw them differently.
There are a lot of Americans who are hurting and afraid right now. And there are so many of us who are finding ourselves at odds with one another as a result of that hurt and that fear.
We need to learn to see one another better and to learn how to forgive and heal. If we don't, we will learn nothing from our shared experiences through this crisis we all face.
I was reading Bishop Desmond Tutu's excellent book on forgiveness the other day, and something he wrote really spoke to me. He wrote about the origins of the African word Ubuntu, and what it had to teach us about our shared humanity. He wrote:
Ubuntu - The word literally means “humanity." It is the philosophy and belief that a person is only a person through other people. In other words, we are human only in relation to other humans. Our humanity is bound up in one another, and any tear in the fabric of connection between us must be repaired for us all to be made whole.We are all connected, and our own true humanity is inextricably connected to those around us. Realizing this enables us to see others through the lens of grace, no matter how difficult that might be.
It enables us to see past someone's poor behavior or their jarring reactions and to bring into focus the brokenness and fragility that created them. In other words, we see them as Jesus sees them.
Jesus had a way of looking past the persona and seeing the person. He often did this with people whose behavior was extremely objectionable... prostitutes, tax collectors, overly-religious people, extreme nationalists... and even Romans.
If a majority of people who claimed to be followers of Jesus began to understand this, to internalize it, and then to live it... It just might spark a revolution, and be the impetus for the restoration of our shattered and divided country.
Imagine if the majority of people who claim to be Jesus-followers began to see like Jesus sees. Imagine how it could change our society, even the world.
It begins with you and me, though. We need to become the change we long for. We have to begin to see others like Jesus. And we have to internalize the truth of that glorious word... Ubuntu.
May it be so. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.