Wear Your Mask

I want to say something about masks. While I bring my mask on every weekly hike, I've felt self-conscious every time I actually put it on. I do it, but I always worry that people I pass will think I'm overly cautious or ridiculous, especially because hiking happens outside and hikers are seemingly healthy. But last Sunday, I watched as a group coming toward us on a narrow part of the trail all put their masks on. (Their masks had, until then, been hanging around their necks.) I don't know why watching that happen struck such a chord in me, but I absolutely, in that moment, recognized it as an act of kindness. Their masks weren't protecting them; they were protecting me.

It's not that I didn't know how the masks work. I'm one of those people that obsessively consumes Coronavirus news and information. Still, I feel like it's a very human instinct to feel that when you put a mask on, you're protecting yourself, like a shield. Likewise, it's easy to see other's masks as their protection against you. But in that moment on the trail when I fully grasped that it was me they were protecting, I felt the kindness of their act, and I reciprocated without feeling awkward.

I wanted to post this because I feel that masks are becoming, inexplicably, a wedge issue, but they're not symbols of freedom or tyranny; they're masks. They protect the people you come into contact with (some of whom may be immunocompromised). And if you're worried about the economy, masks are one of the tools that will allow us to open back up more safely.

Seriously, if you are somehow equating masks with your political identity, stop. People wearing masks around you are not doing so to make a statement. They're trying to keep YOU safe; there's no other reason to wear it. And when you wear a mask, it is not a sign that you're paranoid, it's a sign that you care about other humans.

I'm writing this as someone who has struggled with my own hangups around mask-wearing (none of which are political). If you're struggling with it too, I get it. Perhaps thinking of it as an act of kindness will help.