Yesterday, with some exceptions, Massachusetts lifted the last restrictions on wearing masks and limiting people in public venues and when I set out to do a few errands I wondered what it would be like to finally see people’s faces.
At the first shop I visited, I found employees and customers in masks and was grateful I had taken mine with me. As I paid for my purchases, I asked the woman behind the counter about the new protocol and she explained that because it was the first day, they were unsure if the town had lifted the restrictions, as well. Out of respect for their customers, they decided to keep wearing masks for a little while longer.
The second store had one owner with a mask and one without. As I entered I asked which they preferred and was told to do what felt comfortable. “You’re welcome to shop without a mask if you’d like.”
At the final shop, the owner was without a mask and told me she had stopped wearing one a few weeks earlier because she was tired of them. “Honestly I think the media has blown this pandemic way out of proportion and I’m glad it’s finally over.”
I left her shop, walked to my car, and put the bags in the trunk. I slid into the driver’s seat and sat staring straight ahead. Well there you have it, I thought to myself. A taste of humanity in three brief acts.
With such a variety of perspectives, states of consciousness, reactions, needs, and desires, it’s easy to be overtaken by feelings of hopelessness and despair these days. At least it is for me. I often wonder how we’ll tackle the serious issues of living on this planet together in a sensible and sustainable way.
Sitting in my car, I closed my eyes and felt a familiar anxiety rise within me. For the last year or so, it’s become an uninvited guest I’ve learned to greet with respect and curiosity. I took a few deep breaths and tuned in to what was going on.
The truth is I could see myself in each of the three scenes I witnessed while shopping. I, too, want to be respectful of others. I’m also tired of wearing masks and ready for this to be over. And there are certainly days when I’ve wondered whether the media has done more harm than good in its coverage of the pandemic.
Not only is the outer world filled with a variety of personalities, seems the inner world is, too.
When I feel pessimistic about the future of humanity and our planet, I remind myself of one simple thing: I have the power to do good today.
I can be kind.
I can be generous.
I can listen without an agenda.
I can be loving and helpful.
I can be respectful of the needs of others.
I can refrain from judgment and criticism.
I can be open to new points of view.
Every day I have a million chances to do good. I can be curious when someone shares an opinion I don’t agree with. I can refuse to post anything less than loving on social media. I can stop trying to get others to see my point of view. I can avoid judging people and instead tend to the ways I judge myself.
I have my work cut out for me.
When in doubt about what we can do to support the future of humanity, it’s good to bring our attention back to the basics – the simple, powerful actions we can take to make a positive difference. Answering one simple question is all it takes:
What good shall I do this day?