I understand that some people are uncomfortable by the physical mask I wear when I go inside public and private places. My husband has been ill off and on for months now and we need all of his available sick leave for him, not for him to use because of any illness I might have. Obviously, he would care for me, but once his paid days off are gone, any further time off will be money lost. In other words, we can not afford for me to get sick. Not only can we not afford possible illness financially, we also don’t have the time or ability to handle it. With medical appointments nearly every other week and multiple surgeries this year requiring recovery time, a larger share of the daily tasks of managing our home and caring for our children has fallen to me. It’s a common concern among many mothers. We feel like we just can’t take any time off, no matter the reason, because things fall apart. Beyond that, we’re still responsible for picking up the pieces, even if we’re really not healed yet. Maybe the rest of our country is acting like this pandemic is over, but it is not. An average of just over 400 people are dying daily. Sure, this is less than earlier in the pandemic, but that’s still not a number to ignore. For comparison, that’s an entire elementary school. The deaths are spread across the United States, so the impact isn’t felt as severely and it’s easier for us to rationalize our actions and dismiss those lives lost. Most people aren’t intentionally dismissing those deaths, but we’re not necessarily trying to prevent any further deaths either or honoring those with chronic illnesses by acting in ways that protect them. Even if we could afford for me to get sick, if money were not a concern and my spouse was able to do all of his work and mine, I would still wear a mask. Whatever discomfort or annoyance a person feels because of my mask, I’m confident that the peace of mind the presence of my mask offers to those who need me to wear it is the most loving thing I can do for them. I can not take away their illness or whatever situation is causing their increased risk, but I can show them that I value their comfort and security. As a Christian, I really do believe this matters. If anyone feels unable to be with me in person because of concern over illness, it is my responsibility, my duty, to honor them and love them by making an effort to create the safest environment I can. I understand that other Christians don’t share my views. It’s absolutely devastating when Christians are not choosing to protect people, but also additionally berating or speaking disdainfully about those who choose to wear masks regardless of the lack of a mask requirement. Jesus told his followers that “whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me”. Even if the majority of people are comfortable without masks and their risk is low, we’re not called to protect them or make our decisions with them in mind. Central to the core of Christianity is loving those in need, those on the outskirts, those made to feel unwelcome and marginalized. There is not a commandment to love yourself first. There is a commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. Your neighbor’s safety is more important than your own personal access and comfort to and within a situation. I’m aware it’s not as cut and dry as this, that not all situations are this simple, and that I shouldn’t generalize quite this much. That being said, I do feel that Christians should consider who they’re really protecting, who they’re really loving. If you have any hesitation at all, it might be enough to merit a moment of reflection. Maybe you have made people feel unsafe and excluded in your pursuit of the normalcy of before. This might be an opportunity to love your neighbor in an obvious, identifiable way. There are times to choose yourself. There are times to honor your needs, your space, and your time, but maybe fighting over wearing masks or not wearing masks really isn’t one of those times. Maybe you should just be ok with people wearing them so that a fight isn’t even necessary at all.
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