Mask and ye shall (not) receive

img_2817The day before yesterday was American Mother’s Day – hence the card. Being COVID-conscious, Mark skipped shopping and printed this one. We also had a really fun Zoom chat with our kids, and the five of us played an online game of Clue together. It was a great day.

The day also gave me an opportunity to reflect on motherhood and what kind of mom I am. Now, I admit to having made my share of parenting mistakes (and probably part of somebody else’s). But one thing I did do right, or at least I hope I did right, was to say yes whenever that was possible. As a parent, you have to say no to a lot of what your child asks for, so it seems fair to say yes when you can. Actually, what it seems to me to be is kind. And don’t we want to be kind to our kids and hope that they, in turn, will be kind to others?

Most times when we’re kind, I suspect, it doesn’t take much effort. I remember one soccer game with our daughter Mary when she was little, maybe five or six. In the car on the way to the game, she announced that henceforth she was no longer Mary, but was Mary Gloria. (No, I don’t remember whether she said “henceforth,” but even at that tender age it was entirely possible that she did.) For those unacquainted with the naming practices in our family, it may be worth knowing that both of our daughters have my last name as their middle name, so this Gloria business pretty much came out of nowhere. The only Gloria she knew personally was the mother of one of her friends, so perhaps it was an homage to that lovely lady. Or maybe she’d decided to be more like her dear friend Mary Dawn, who always went by two names. I’d list the possibility that it was a sudden bout of religious fervor, as this sounds sort of Catholic, but we’re Methodist, and so for us the Virgin Mary only headlines at Christmastime and makes cameo appearances at Cana and the cross. So such a spiritual awakening seems rather unlikely.

Anyhow, wherever that came from, suddenly I had a new child in the back seat. It would have been possible to get huffy and insist on the name we picked at birth, but it seemed to me that there was very little downside to giving in on this one. It’s not like she wanted to be called something objectionable, like “Mary Serial Murderer” or “Mary Buttface.” Besides, fads like this tend to come and go with kids, and it seemed unlikely that she’d trot off to college in a dozen years or so as Mary Gloria. So I allowed as how that was fine, and we turned into the parking lot for the soccer game. True to my word, all my shouted maternal encouragement during that game was addressed to my darling daughter’s preferred appellation. “That’s the way to kick, Mary Gloria!” “Great block, Mary Gloria!” “Good save, Mary Gloria!” The other parents may have thought I was bananas, but who cares? The game ended, my red-faced soccer warrior got her cool-down popsicle, and we made our way back to the car. As we pulled out of the parking lot, she informed me that she was reverting to her original name. And so I’d done an easy thing that made her happy.

We had similar experiences with our daughter Jane. For example, for about a year when she was four or so, the only cereal she would eat was a combination of Kix, Cheerios, and Rice Chex. This made breakfast a tad more complicated than it might otherwise have been, but it was a little thing we could do to make her happy. 

The point of these tales is that doing something small is often all that’s required to do a kindness. This is why it’s incomprehensible that many people in the USA are livid at the prospect of wearing masks in public. To me, this is an easy way to protect those around you from something that could kill them. The arguments I’ve seen online defending the no-mask position seem absurd. Consider “You can’t tell me what to do with my body.” Actually, we do this all the time. Prohibitions on assault, battery, rape, and the like all tell us to refrain from doing dangerous things with our bodies. Then there’s “I have a right to go into any business I want dressed however I want.” Well, that’s dumb. Virtually any restaurant, for example, will refuse to serve barefoot patrons. It’s a health and safety issue (where have I heard that before?). This argument is particularly perverse for ardent supporters of private property rights for businesses. If Dollar General insists on masks in its stores, it’s their right, right? And don’t get me started on the legislator from Ohio who refuses to wear a mask because it hides the image of the God who created him. Carried to its logical end, this argument will lead this guy to walk around naked, and that’s not okay with me. There are parts of God’s image I’d really rather he kept tucked away.

So here’s my simple plea: wear a mask in public. It’s easy and it’s kind. Keep this virus from spreading. Please mask, so that we may not receive.




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