Who Was That Masked Man? (Or: Why We Wear Masks in the Time of COVID-19)
In these days of COVID-19, we are told to wear masks and engage in social distancing in public places by the Center for Disease Control. This is not to protect us, but to protect others from anything we could spread. We may have the virus and be asymptomatic. Or, we could be carriers.
We don't know. Unless we are tested every day, we do not know if we could infect other people. However, since tests are not always perfect, one could have the virus and still test negative. In this time, anything is possible.
Why do some people refuse to wear masks? They may not understand that wearing a mask is for the sake of others, not oneself. Masks do not protect the wearer from contracting the disease. Some people may believe that they CAN'T infect others, or if they did, it doesn't matter that much. Wearing a mask is about caring for others' well-being and good health. It is a sign of caution, respect, compassion, and love for the community.
Diseases like COVID-19 spread in the air They are caught easily by others. Sneezing, spitting, even talking could send out harmful disease particles.
So, we can tell who is concerned about the health of the community and who is not by their "mask" behavior. Some people don't think they can get sick. The reality is that we have close to 100,000 deaths so far in this country -- almost 1,000 in Minnesota. People of all ages have died. No one is immune to it. Some people thought children were not likely to contract the virus. Now, we learn that many children are dying from it.
Social distancing is not easy for some people who live in crowded conditions. The elderly, the poor, and racial minorities who are more likely forced into public contact suffer the most. Staying six feet apart is a luxury.
My mask was hand-made by a relative. It has a Little Red Riding Hood and the Fox print on it. I have five other masks to wear in case this one needs washing.
We may have to sacrifice longer than we would like. But, it is time to think about being more careful, rather than less careful.
Maintaining Gratitude in a Time of Socially-Distanced Milestones
GRIEVING OUR LOSSES
So many people are missing out on in-person celebrations these days. As we move through Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations this spring and summer, we are forced to develop other ways of saying, "Congratulations, You Made It!"
People are postponing celebrations, and hoping the future will allow more of the typical connected experiences. One of the saddest aspects of COVID-19 is people dying alone, without the comfort and physical presence of their loved ones.
We have car parades, and cheering from balconies. We have signs and balloons, and other ways of marking major accomplishments, changes, and shifts
This is probably not a major issue for people who are suffering in hospitals, people who are homeless and people who are starving.
How does one stay living in gratitude when some of the major joys have removed from our every day lives?
WE ARE SO BLESSED!
Those who are caring for the sick (doctors, nurses, aides) without the proper protective gear are to be appreciated for their courage, expertise, and compassion.
There are so many working tirelessly at finding a vaccine, developing and disseminating tests, feeding the hungry, and maintaining social structures. There are millions of teachers who are adjusting to virtual classrooms. Small business owners are struggling to keep their families housed and fed.
Let us pray for all those who are in need. Let us thank God for being with us in the midst of this challenging experience.
Our lives are different, and will probably be different because of this epidemic.
We can connect in many different ways. Some of us call 25 people weekly to check in. We offer help to anyone who needs help. Unity Minneapolis provides angels during this time who are available to shop for food for people who are at risk if they go to stores.
We remember that we are strong, and God is even stronger.
I have been hearing about how decisions are being made when there are limited medical supplies such as ventilators. Younger people receive preferential treatment over the elderly. It is assumed that once one is past 70, one has lived a full life and is probably ready to die.
False, unfair and the ultimate sign of ageism.
I know fifty or more vibrant people in their seventies and eighties. They are intelligent, agile, and capable of clear, complex and creative thought.
Here is one example: One man, close to 90, regularly rides the stationery recumbent bike next to mine at the YMCA. The Y is now closed for exercising, so I don't see him very much. However, he would buy low cost epsom salts at Costco for me, and then we would exchange the bags for cash in the Y parking lot. He told the Y staff we had a deal going on in the parking lot, and that he had white powder that I was buying. They chuckled. He calls me when he is going to Costco. We still make that exchange -- except in a different parking lot.
Many of my friends are older, and leading vibrant lives. They are writers, artists, group members, readers, public speakers, volunteers, and excellent communicators. They have made incredible contributions to society and plan on making many more. They are not ready to go. They may be more susceptible to be infected by COVID-19 than others. However, they have had many diverse experiences, and many of them have learned valuable life lessons only time and healthy reflection can provide.
So, in this time of caution and concern, let us remember that all human beings are God's children, worthy of saving and worthy of living.
When I was a child, my Dad said to me, "Michael, what's your hurry?" I was impatient. I wanted what I wanted and I wanted it NOW. I did not like to "delay gratification."
Over the years, I have watched my impatient self work at becoming more patient. I practiced listening to others without interrupting. "Please get to the point" I sometimes muttered to myself.
I was never labeled ADHD because they didn't have a name for it back then. I am generally not hyperactive. But I am still impatient. I am not great behind slow drivers, and not superb at waiting in long lines at the check-out or the airport.
Having studied journalism for many years, I learned that you can write everything one needs to know in an opening paragraph -- who, what, where, why, when? The "Five W's." I learned that people want to get to the point, and not muddle through a lot of unnecessary, in my opinion, details.
But I have since learned from famous writing teachers, such as Carol Bly, Natalie Goldberg, Charles Nolte, and others, the joy of life is in noticing the details. That includes the flowers, the butterflies, the birds, the leaves, the sunsets, the smiles, the body movements, the subtleties of life.
It is very important now, during this time of COVID-19, for me to be patient. To wait. To be sure it is safe to venture out too far. I am told that I am at risk -- given age and pre-conditions.
As the country begins to relax into opening up again, it is tempting to return to a more balanced and free life. I can understand, on an economic level, that many people are starving and suffering due to business closures. It is horrible.
I am so grateful so many people are feeding others, and helping others in need. Still, long lines exist at many places giving out free meals.
So right now, my job is to live in gratitude, acknowledge that I miss my face-to-face interactions, and work on being the most patient person I can be.
Sue Monk Kidd wrote a marvelous book many years ago called "When the Heart Waits." She talks about the waiting period, before the fruition, the results. It is in the waiting, the incubation, that real discovery occurs. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially impatient folks like me.
So -- I pray that opening up businesses will work to feed the employees, and that customers can come and not become ill with this virus. I pray for respect for scientists and the scientific method. I pray for kindness, respect, compassion and love to pour over this land and everywhere. I pray that each person uses discernment (a spiritual gift) to determine his or her personal and interpersonal actions.
I have worked hard to learn how to postpone gratification. Going to graduate school helped that process. It really paid off -- but while I was there, it often was a grind.
Anne Wilson Schaef recently passed away. Her book, "Living in Process," taught me to enjoy every second of my life, to appreciate it's complexity and subtleties. I hear the echo of my Dad's voice. He would be 116 now if he were alive. "Michael, you are doing better. Still not perfect. But I appreciate the lack of tantrums and cursing while you wait."
This is a time of waiting, listening, and paying attention. There is so much at stake. At this writing, there are 272 deaths in Minnesota due to COVID-19. I pray we continue to connect in ways that work for us. Social distance walks help.
My hair is growing longer, and I am looking more and more like Albert Einstein. I guess he was a relatively patient guy.
We can connect on the phone, or on Zoom. We can see each other on screens. We can hear the feelings within the words of our dear friends.
But human, face-to-face contact is different. Being in the same room, looking into each other's eyes, watching body language, and movements is an "energetic" and "vibrational" exchange that can encourage deep connection.
What do I miss? I miss meeting with one person at a time and supporting him or her on a journey toward greater appreciation of one's own potential. I miss small group check-ins and interactions, giving and receiving positive affirmations and supportive feedback. I miss haircuts and shampoos, foot massages, and energy work.
Support groups in person provide a magic, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This loss of face-to-face, deep, meaningful interaction is hard to replace with computers and cellphones.
Teaching students in a classroom has an energetic flow quality that on-line teaching cannot duplicate. But we have to make do with the options we have right now. Social distancing and students learning through packets of material are part of this time of COVID-19.
I believe we are grieving the loss of this energetic connection. The congregation in a church responds to the minister's message and stories. The minister responds to the congregation. The fans at a concert, play, or sporting event generate an energetic response to the activity they are witnessing in unison.
A wedding is different than a virtual wedding. A funeral is different than one viewed on a screen.
I believe the most intense pain during this time of challenge is that those who die from the virus often die alone. Their family members don't get to say their last good-byes.
At this point, in America, there have been more than 30,000 deaths from this virus. The dignity of dying with loved ones by their bedside is absent for many.
Many events and activities have been postponed. The common everyday hugs and handshakes are no longer available to us.
Energetically, let us imagine this deep, magical connection with others through Oneness Consciousness. We ARE all one in spirit, in deep compassionate love.
And maybe soon, we'll be able to look each other in the eyes - from 2 inches away - and feel the amazing vibration of love in the flesh.
Fear of not having enough, of scarcity, or limitation has always fueled our economy. This time is one where we can learn about many of our fears - fear of loss of control, fear of being ill, fear of dying, fear of isolation, fear of not having enough.
This difficult challenge also teaches us about sharing, connecting, and being compassionate toward others. Our next door neighbors have been shopping for groceries for us for the last few weeks. They are younger, and supposedly less susceptible to becoming ill in public places. Their kindness is beautiful. We are spiritually connected like a family.
As spring comes, and flowers start to bloom, and grass turns greener, we see that there is always another opportunity for wonder. It is the season of the resurrection. Something dies, and something is reborn.
Eastertime is about the Crucifixion, the tomb time, and the Resurrection. There are always signs of hope -- one flower, one leaf, one blade of grass -- and one toilet paper roll -- at a time.
When I was young, my Dad would say to me: "Man proposes and God disposes." I did not understand what that meant. Much later, as an adult, I read David Richo's book, "The Five Things We Cannot Change." One of those five is that life does not always go according to plan. John Lennon reminded me in his music that "life is what happens while you are making other plans."
So, what does all this mean? It means that things happen that we don't expect. It means that we can not always prepare for the future. It means that we sometimes are going to be disappointed, sad, overwhelmed, confused and resentful.
These months of serious illness, isolation and unpredictability challenge our hearts and minds. We don't know what is going to happen. We try to make sense of so many people ill and dying. Why now? Why there? Why here?
Some people believe that God is in charge, and this plague is serving some Divine purpose. Maybe it is a wake-up call to see the Oneness of all. Others believe that we are being punished for something we did as human beings. For still others, it is a reminder of the fragility of life.
I am reminded of the Passover story, where God sent ten plagues to the Egyptians because they enslaved the Jews and would not let them go. The worst of these plagues was the killing of the Egyptians' first-born sons. Jews were to put blood on their tents, so the "angel of Death" would pass over their dwellings, and not kill anyone there. Hence, the name Passover.
As we try to make sense of what is happening, we can only hope that this virus will "pass over" us, so we can live and be free again.
We are told to stay home, avoid crowds of ten or more, and practice social distancing. We can do that. Some of us will, and some of us won't.
One thing we must not do is trivialize the impact of this plague, this virus that has already affected half a million people and their families.
Someone told me today that Minnesota is the number one state in the nation in following the health guidelines, keeping one's distance, and washing hands regularly. I hope this is true. I'd like to believe that Minnesota nice means something more than passive/aggressive behavior. I hope it is about common sense, compassion for others, and willingness to work hard and sacrifice when necessary.
I am a member of Unity Minneapolis, a church that is now closed for a while. This church believes that we have a God part inside us to connect us to ourselves, others, and spirit. The church provides a "First Aid Kit" of services while being closed to the public. Ministers are available to phone visits. Weekly and other services are being live-streamed. Prayer chaplains are ready to pray for us. Silent Unity, a national prayer program, exists for prayer support. Service angels are available to shop and do errands for the susceptible elderly among us. Feeding the hungry continues as a mission.
In this time of distance, it is vital to feel connected -- emotionally and spiritually. People are reaching out others. Many of us make phone calls daily to friends and family. I have received more than ten offers from friends to go to the store, or do other errands.
However this situation turns out, I want to believe that it brought out the best in our people -- honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity, compassion, and love. Maybe this is the ULTIMATE message. In Brene Brown's words, we are "vulnerable, daring greatly, and rising strong."
I am grateful for those who take this virus seriously, and act out of respect for scientific experts' knowledge, self-love, healthy boundary-setting and loving concern for the common good.
When I was growing up, my mother always said, "This, too, shall pass" when times were bad. But in the meantime, she did all she could to make life work the best for all of us.