I haven’t written much since I posted the book. (Work and holidays swept my writing time aside.) But I had to write something this morning because, well, I wore a mask in the grocery store yesterday.
Now, wearing a mask is not a controversial action nowadays. In fact, it’s the law here to wear them around other people, especially in enclosed spaces like stores or office buildings.
But this mask was controversial. I knew this because several fellow shoppers looked at it and quickly averted their eyes as I walked past them down the aisles. Others stretched their own masks down in a way that let me know they were slack-jawed and gawking.
That said, the mask did do as I intended: it reached out to some people in a positive way.
One mother giggled behind her face protection, then tapped the shoulder of her young child and pointed so they could both stare at me in wonder.Three people glanced at it and we ended up having short but pleasant conversations, though without mentioning what I wore. An older gentleman was not subtle about his response. He grabbed his mask, pulled it down so I could actually see his grin, and spoke directly to me, saying, “Your mask made me smile.”
And it was supposed to.
You see, the mask was given to me by fellow co-workers to cheer me up. Made of lurid yellow material trimmed with white, it sports an ear-to-ear line drawn in black paint that breaks open into a goofy cartoon grin complete with white teeth and a red tongue. It is a defiantly positive symbol of happiness to combat these critical and chilling times.
I was prepared for a confrontation in the store, to be harangued for wearing it when others are suffering illness and death. And I could have told stories that confirmed I and my family had suffered similarly but I prepared myself to listen to their rebukes instead of defending myself. After all, the other person might need to vent their frustrations. And that, for them, might feel as therapeutic as a smile.
But no one, other than the cheerful people, made any remarks.
Maybe 2021 is starting off with hope, I don’t know. It’s more likely we just want any kind of positive feelings in our lives right now. I know I do, even though 2020 did have a few bright spots for me.
That’s why I choose to wear a smile, both on my mask and on my face.
I can’t change the wrongs of the world; I can only change myself and my attitude. The weight of lamentable past mistakes and historic events I cannot alter might be lessened if I make the small, positive differences I’m capable of locally, both now and in the future; one human among billions doing what is personally possible in this chaotic life.
Even if my goofy mask receives only one giggle at a time, that sound will be as good for me to hear as it will be for the person who utters it, and that briefly makes us two humans together among billions in these strange times.
That’s also why writing is so important to me. It supposedly helps me make a connection with others too, though most of the time I will never know. But I will continue to reach out. Until next time, crickets, take care and be well. Happy New Year!