In Ontario, covid-19 related masking requirements became optional on Monday, March 21. Most private businesses and institutions have decided to go mask optional. Some have decided to maintain mask mandates and passport requirements for now. Public facilities are compelled to discontinue mandates, recognizing masking and vaccination as a personal choice (except for public transit and a few others). Federal mask and vaccine passports remain in place.
Starting the day mandates were imposed and through this week, one thing I’ve noticed is too often absent has been kindness―patience, gentleness, self-control―between people who disagree.
Reading what some are free to say on social media and listening to passionate voices on video or in the news, I can’t help but think there seems to be a missing element of humanity in our humanity. It crossed my mind that if Rabbi Bulka was still alive he would remind us to be kind to each other.
Kindness is a strong motivator. So is fear.
Do you fear what you might lose if you put on a mask? Pride in your research? Ridicule from friends or strangers? Your sense of identity?
Do you fear what you might lose if you had decided to be vaccinated once, twice or thrice, exposing your shoulder to the needle and downloading a QR code?
Perhaps you fear what you might lose if you don’t put on a mask? Pride in your research? Ridicule from friends or strangers?
Do you fear what you might lose if you had not been vaccinated once, twice or thrice?
For too many, the answers have fostered flashpoints for anger rather than acceptance of a personal choice and motivation to demonstrate human kindness toward one another. Both sides rebuke the other with the same words. “You’re being deceived!”
There are other fears, some that received little attention over the last two years and are especially deserving of our thoughts in the coming days and weeks.
Perhaps, the shots and that mask are not for the mask-wearer. Maybe grandmother, grandfather, mom, dad, sibling or child faces risks we know not of.
You may think of a mask as a face diaper or muzzle but perhaps best to hold those words for private conversation with friends. The mask could signify fear. Bully words won’t alleviate it. The mask might be an expression of kindness, legitimate concern for life and love of self or another.
The unvaccinated are not a threat to Canada’s government or society. The unmasked are not a horde of selfish virus-spreaders.
Love your neighbour, he said. Treat others the way you would like to be treated, are his words. Love even your enemies, he added.
Church, we especially ought to grasp the importance of being kind―to ourselves and to others.
March 27 will mark the first Sunday the option to mask or not to mask extends to those gathered in places of worship. May I encourage that we smile at one another? Smile with your eyes if your mouth is covered.
It will be a different Sunday than has been experienced over the last two years. There will have been only a week to prepare to be kind to one another. Or, maybe, in the moment we’ll apply the lessons of a lifetime.
Sunday, some will have masks on. Others will not. Some will keep their distance. Others will hug. Let’s be respectful of one another. Watch and listen to our brothers and sisters.
I like the decision the leadership team of our congregation has taken. They’ll have masks with them. If you approach maskless you may be greeted maskless. If you approach masked, they’ll try to remember to mask, being sensitive to your level of comfort and personal need. That’s kindness in action.
When you show up, some of the people you’re looking for won’t be there. Things have changed over the last two years. They’ve moved, or moved to another congregation. A few have moved on to their eternal home. Others to a care home.
Some will simply be at home. They’re not ready to come back just yet. Now is not the time to tell them the Bible has 365 fear nots, one for each day of the year. (So I’ve heard, but never counted.) They or loved ones have needs. Some have needs the congregation may not be in a position to meet until it’s clear who’ll be back and which areas of ministry will have, or lack, volunteers. The online attendance option is the best fit for now.
Miss them. Pray for them. Call them. Encourage them. Be kind.
There will be new opportunities presented by this fresh start. Look for those opportunities. Pray about whether one or more might be an opportunity for you to show love in action.
Jesus doesn’t separate his disciples into the masked and the unmasked. He did say, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35)”.
Let’s be kind to each other.