As I headed to my office a couple of weekends ago, I was driving through downtown Ashland and the town just looked different. The sun was out, vehicles were parked along the curbs and I actually saw humans … and a lot of them, walking down the sidewalk! As I sat across the table from my clients, I jokingly said, “I had a bit of anxiety seeing so many people out and I had to remind myself “people are good.” I was only half joking about the anxiety but was completely serious about reminding myself people are not the problem, the virus is.
Relatively speaking I am a “younger healthy woman.” This virus hasn’t stopped me much especially compared to those that are more vulnerable, however it has impacted my mental health and my expectations of the people around me. I feel so blessed that I haven’t had to live in fear the past year. I can’t imagine what that is like for those that have had to do this journey with so much fear; those that have been isolated and alone because of their risk. I am sorry for all those experiences and tears that must have flown and probably still do.
As I drove through our town and saw our community come back to life, I couldn’t help but feel excited, eager and nervous all at the same time. I have such hopes that we will all emerge from this crazy season with more grace, love and attention not only to offer but also to receive. I want the world to be less concerned with electronics and careers. I want us to look up at all the faces we haven’t really “seen” for over a year.
With more and more of the community being vaccinated I personally have enjoyed seeing people’s teeth and smiles. It hasn’t been lost on me, on how much of a person’s face is covered with the mask. Oftentimes I know when I am wearing one, I subconsciously feel like it is harder to talk, harder to hear, harder to connect. I find myself doing a head nod at the office instead of a “nice to see you let’s catch up conversation.” And man, honestly, I have missed those moments. The ones where you feel a little extra special because someone checked in on you and really wondered how you were doing. Those moments when I stopped and enjoyed the experience at hand.
I was in the grocery store yesterday and just so happened to be by myself (rare occasion). I was stopped by a World War II veteran who wanted to know if I had any single friends or if my mother was single. We had a good laugh and instead of rushing into the next aisle, I waited. I waited to see if this man, who I later learned was shot down in Germany and one of only two survivors, needed a connection. I took just an extra moment to breathe and simply think about another human being. He then told me war stories and I got glimpses into a few chapters of his life. I so badly just wanted to hug the man who almost died at the age of 17.
I can’t say for sure I would have stopped before the hell of what was 2020. But I can say I won’t let masks or fear prevent human connection. So please, feel free to stop me in town. I want to hear your story. Whether you are wearing a mask, vaccinated or not, you are just as important as the next person and I am glad to see you!