Three months ago I wrote an Observer article entitled “Surreality”. It talked about life during the covid-19 crisis. Here we are in August, more than 3 months later, and life is still no where near normal.
When you leave your home these days, you not only have to remember keys and wallet but you can’t forget your mask and hand sanitizer. Now everyone is mandated to be masked. Being masked really makes you think about how you’re communicating. I know many people say it’s hard to talk through a mask or to understand what someone is saying while wearing a mask. Masks certainly do complicate communications.
I’ve noticed a slightly different issue. I try to smile at people that I come across, but they cannot see my smile. It makes me think of the old proverb, “the eyes are the windows of the soul” and I pray that my eyes are conveying what my hidden smile cannot. I’ve never really thought about how important facial expressions are. It’s like the difference between reading a text and hearing the spoken word with voice inflection.
A smile expresses friendliness or the pleasure of seeing someone. This odd time requires us to think a lot about expression and how we convey the thoughts and feelings that we were able to physically communicate so easily this time last year.
We haven’t been able to hug or kiss our parents, grandparents or other relatives and friends living in nursing homes in what seems like forever. How do we express the affection that we feel for them? How do they express the way they feel about us, especially those that have difficulty finding their words? I have been amazed and touched by some of the news stories showing the extraordinary measures that people come up with to reach out.
Students are going to be returning to classrooms. For years students have been used to working closely in small groups, helping, encouraging and supporting one another. They look forward to talking and laughing, crowded around a lunch table with friends, playing tag on the playground and sharing high-fives during ball games. All of these examples of friendship and youthful joy will have to be expressed in new and physically distant ways.
Although physical distance is necessary, we must still find a way to express our thoughts and feelings to each other. As a pastor, I have to find a way to reach out to the hospitalized parishioners that I would normally visit. I can’t physically visit them, but I still have to find a way to express my presence to them at a time when they need to know I am there to support them. When someone passes away, hugging the family to express my sympathy is no longer appropriate. I have to find another way.
More than ever before, we need to work to understand what people are trying to express. We have to try to sensitize ourselves to recognize subtle expressions of doubt, fear, sadness and loneliness . We have to make sure we find a way to express our needs as well. This is a challenging time physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. We have to be gentle with ourselves and others.
There are also those things that can be expressed pretty well with simple words like a “thank you”.
Thank you to hospital workers and first responders that have been working hard to keep us safe.
Thank you to all of the administrators, teachers and staffs of the schools that are working hard to prepare for a safe restart to the school year.
Thank you to the grocery store workers that have been working hard during this entire time to make sure we have food and can get it safely.
Thank you also to everyone that wears their mask. That’s the best way to express your care for everyone around you!
Vice President of Moore Counseling and Mediation Services, Inc., Councilman for Euclid Ward 2 and Associate Minister at Lake Shore Christian Church. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org