COVID-19: Please Wear a Mask

“In short: Staying safe is half a head game.”
Arianne Cohen, Fast Company on COVID-19 behavior.

It wasn’t lost on me when I watched from my metal railing balcony as my little 5-old-year neighbor wandered to the edge of the canyon in our community backyard for his daily “let-off-some-steam” time that the bars between us had many layers of meaning for me. Paying closer attention to him after I returned from an unsettling interaction out in public earlier in the day, I noticed this little guy was wearing a mask.

If he can wear his mask to play games outside, surely the 20ish male runner without a mask coming toward me as I stepped onto the grass more than six feet to the right on a short walk to avoid his heaving breath can too, right? And what about while I was waiting to pick up takeout today to support a local restaurant, the unmasked man with his masked wife in front of me and the three young unmasked men standing behind me who brushed right past me? Why no masks? Rhetorical question, sort of. But not really.

What is it with men?! With young people? Sorry, men friends and millennials I love who are wearing masks, for lumping all of you together; I know it’s not all men or just men, or young people but it is so unsettling to see the number of people who seem to have so much entitlement for themselves or so little regard for themselves or others and all the incredible life-saving going in by medical professionals and family caregivers or so little social-emotional intelligence that they won’t comply with what we know helps prevent COVID from spreading and killing people! What will it take? Do they need a personal reason like their own intubation or someone they love suffering, or worse, dying—and alone, like my aunt and the loved ones of two friends or the 202,272 other people who have died of COVID-19 as of today!? https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-death-toll/

I am not normally publicly vocal about these kinds of issues, but a quote by Rabbi Hillel that I’ve theoretically spouted as a speaker for years keeps playing in my head: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? If not now, when.” And the community version of it, “If not us, who?”

Are you wearing a mask when you’re out? If so. thank you. (If you live in San Diego, they’ll be mandatory May 1.)

If you aren’t wearing a mask yet, please do. And adapt the premise, “If you see something, say something.” And for those you see wearing masks, thank them.

What would you say to someone not wearing a mask to help them comply without shaming them? Let’s create a list of responses in the comments because I could use them. I didn’t do so well today. To the older man in the takeout line four feet away from me as I continued to back up, I said under my mask and pointing to it, “Where is your mask?” He said, “I don’t need one.” I said, “Yes you do! For yourself, for your wife, and for me and everyone in this room. Please wear a mask.” He shook his head no, his wife shrugged her shoulders and they turned around and walked away.

Outside of neighborhood walks, I’ve been out in public to grocery shop four times in five weeks when very few people are out. Today was different with so many people outside. I get it. No one likes wearing a mask or being cooped up as long as we have, especially on a beautiful day, but, please—pretty please with f-ing sugar on top…PLEASE WEAR A MASK.

I really had to work to shift my fear and anger to compassion. But as I’m learning from my mindful self-compassion teacher training, there are two types of compassion—yin/gentle and yang/fierce. Gentle compassion comforts and fierce compassion protects. We need both and sometimes, like today, we need to use our courage to call in fierce compassion.

What are you doing to protect yourself and your family, co-workers and community? Please wear a mask.And consider reading this article from Fast Company: “6 Reasons Why You Engage in Risky COVID-19 Behaviors and How to Avoid Them. (Thank you, Arianne Cohen) bit.ly/3570ZFQ

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