Mask

[This post is a part of the Letters to an Adopted Child series. Read the series preface here.]

Mask changed. What was once associated with Halloween evenings, medical professionals, and criminal activity now can indicate an aunt at the dinner table, a pastor in the church lobby, and a boy on his bicycle in the heat of July. Like the Coronavirus itself, the mask has spread. Once particular, it turned ubiquitous, though not without friction.

A mask is a material that pushes on your nostrils and clutches onto your chin. Some masks stay on by two thin ear loops, others by a single strap stretching behind your head. Makeshift masks—bandanas, t-shirts, kitchen towels—are often tied together, or fixed in place by a rubber band. A mask is a near black hole for face fluids, so tight and so dense it filters your exhaled air. At the very least, it keeps your spit on your face, rather than on ours, or theirs.

By the time you read this, our society will likely have long forgotten masks in this way. If we remember anything about this time, it may be the conflict surrounding the widespread use of masks. We’ll remember the confusion surrounding how or if they work. We’ll remember the conspiracy theories. We’ll remember wearing one became a political act, that some thought it failed to control the virus any more than a campaign sign stuck in one’s front yard.

What is held in common between all is that a mask in everyday places means the world is not right. A mask in the grocery store, a mask in the line at the outside ice cream shop, shows something is very wrong. And to wear a mask is to know the wrong, to say the virus is around me, and also, it may be in me.

I hope the church remembers this time. I hope we remember proclaiming the goodness of God with obscured voices and covered breath, remember sensing that God heard us all the more when we sang through our masks, and remember, in a time when this evil world took our faces away, the Lord shined upon us with his own.