Cleanings up Messes

As I was leaving the recreation center after my morning swim, I saw two disposable face masks on the sidewalk. Because there was a trash can near by, I suspect that the masks were thrown there to send a message: you can make me wear a mask in the rec center, but you can’t make me wear one now! (I hope I’m wrong, and that the masks were simply the result of persons who throw all kinds of trash on the ground. That’s a message, too.) I thought about picking up the masks, but decided that wouldn’t be the safest thing to do. I also thought about taking a picture of the masks, and posting it on Facebook with a snarky comment about “those kind of people.” Instead, I drove home and here I am, still pondering how to respond.
I admit I don’t understand the defiance about mask wearing. It seems a sensible and simple thing to do in a time when so many people are infected with a virus that we are still learning how to fight. As I entered a facility with a sign that said, “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” plus one that said “Face coverings required,” I was grateful for both! No one is likely to die from people who enter businesses without shirts and shoes (other than the person who steps on a nail or other dangerous object), but it makes for a pleasanter environment for all of us if clothing is not optional. Though we may not know exactly how effective face coverings are, the videos showing droplets and aerosol spewing through the spotlight are enough to convince me it matters! A minor inconvenience to protect myself and others is a small price to pay to avoid a potentially deadly or permanently debilitating disease. So, I start from a different point than many who are insisting upon the freedom to infect and be infected.
On the other hand, I must admit I sometimes have defiant responses to other situations. I have been known to have more than the maximum number of items at the checkout station in a grocery store. (Don’t three identical items count as “one” in those lines?) I am not patient at stop lights when the person in front of me could easily make a right turn on red and doesn’t. (Honk! Honk!) When there is a long line, and one person stops to have a conversation with the clerk, my body language expresses my disapproval just as much as the tossed masks. And let’s not talk about the semis on the highway who pull into my lane just yards in front of me, when there is no traffic behind me whatsoever! And I wonder if my defiance leaves a mark just as easily read as the masks on the sidewalk.
No matter what the results of today’s elections are, no matter when the results are final, some people are already planning defiant actions in response. Many businesses are concerned about looting, and some individuals are fearful of responses that threaten their safety. Undoubtedly, some people are hoping to gloat and continue to call others derogatory names if their candidates or positions win. Masks. Thrown defiantly on sidewalks, sidewalks that lead to a public facility designed and operated with public funds to encourage the health and enjoyment of all citizens. We may receive the messages proclaimed in such ways, but those messages damage the community in which we live.
I’m sorry, now, that I didn’t pick up those masks this morning. I think it would have been worth the minimal risk to myself to clean up the statement someone else unintentionally or intentionally made. And while I’m cleaning up messes made by defiance, I might as well clean up those I make. Perhaps, after I’ve cleaned up after myself, I’ll realize it’s better not to make the mess in the first place.
Stay safe and be blessed,
Pastor Barbara

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