On April 17th, the governor of my state made an announcement asking that all people wear masks when taking care of essential business outside the home. That was the first day I felt fear related to the pandemic.
To be clear, I am not afraid of this crisis. I never have been and I’m still not. I have a very healthy respect for the situation and I follow all the necessary precautions. But I don’t live a life of fear and my faith is strong that behaving appropriately will keep me safe.
However, the first day I went to the grocery store wearing a mask, I felt afraid. Not for myself, but for our society. It all felt so spooky – like a pessimistic science fiction film. But what made me want to cry was the fear I saw in other people’s eyes. Have you thought about what a mask does? It forces your attention to people’s eyes because that’s all you can see.
I’m a very sensitive person. I sense other people’s emotions. I could literally feel the fear, anxiety, and intensity from those around me. I know I’m not supposed to touch my face out in public, but as I moved down the aisles of my grocery, the tears kept welling up in my eyes. I kept feigning undo interest in canned goods I didn’t want or need just to hide the fact that other people’s emotions were rolling down my cheeks.
This scenario continued to repeat itself each time I would run to the market for supplies until recently when it suddenly changed.
Last weekend – when I arrived at our local grocery – I started my (new) regular procedure. I put on my face mask and then my gloves. I poured hand sanitizer into my right hand and then used my left hand to exit and lock my car. I walked to get a grocery cart and used the hand sanitizer I had poured to wipe down the cart I would be shopping with.
Then it hit me. “Oh my gosh, I’ve gotten used to this.” I looked around at all the people in masks going about their business. “We’ve all gotten used to this.”
And then boom! The waterworks started again. Now I was crying because this strange, but warranted behavior was starting to feel like the new normal. I wasn’t emotionally affected by other people’s fear, I was experiencing concern because people were no longer startled by this predicament.
I thought to myself “Good grief, is every little trip to the grocery store going to be an emotional experience now?”
Once I had collected what I needed, I went to check out. There was a sweet, young man running the cash register behind one of those big plastic shields. I smiled at him when he asked “Did you find everything you needed?” But then I wondered if he could tell that I was smiling behind my mask.
That’s when a very powerful realization hit me: the young man was looking me straight in the eyes. And I was doing the same to him. In that moment, I thought to myself “Oh my god. The masks are forcing us, as a society, to look each other in the eyes.”
We can no longer divert our eyes to someone’s mouth, or their nose, or some vague spot on their face. That is all covered. We have to look each other in the eyes. The awareness of such a powerful shift in the way we interact with one another suddenly gave me hope and I smiled again behind my mask.
I then responded to him “Yes, young man. Thank you. I found everything I was looking for and then some.”
I hadn’t anticipated picking up a little hope and perspective at the grocery that day, but that young man delivered it anyway.
Don’t forget that the angels are there for you. If you are sensitive like I am, then ask Archangel Michael to keep you protected and grounded so that you don’t have to walk through the store feeling everyone else’s emotions.
In other words, do as I say, not as a I do.
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