During my lifetime, I have seen our country shift to an “us versus them“ mentality. For example, Americans are either conservative or they’re liberal. The idea that over 300 million people fit neatly into an either/or category might be laughable, if not for the very visible results of this kind of thinking.
Don’t misunderstand me, there are real differences in ideological viewpoints and approaches to politics.
But I still believe that we can overcome those differences and be the best versions of ourselves, especially in times of crisis. When we focus on doing the work to ensure the survival of our community, we can transcend – however briefly – those disagreements that otherwise consume us.
When my wife was pregnant with our oldest son, we were driving home on the turnpike late one night. I noticed the truck in front of me slowing down, so I slowed down, and fortunately so. A car had crashed in the middle of the road, turned so it was facing oncoming traffic.
We – the truck driver, me and my wife, and another car behind us – all pulled over. We didn’t ask each other if we were conservatives or liberal. We didn’t tell the older couple in the car that we empathized with them, but they knew the risks of driving and were now on their own.
We started helping the people in the car, alerting oncoming traffic, and calling for help.
We got the couple out of the car and over to the grassy bank beside the road. Minutes later, another truck came along and smashed head on into their (now thankfully empty) car.
Soon enough the police arrived and took over the scene, and we all went our separate ways. But in those few moments we were collaborating, not for any personal gain, but because that’s what human beings should do for their fellow humans.
My father, for most of my childhood, was a pastor. There’s a story in the Bible about a lawyer asking Jesus how to get into heaven. Part of the answer is “love your neighbor as yourself.” So, of course, the follow up question is, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer, told in the parable of the Good Samaritan, is this: every human being is your neighbor.
We find ourselves locked in a debate over wearing masks. There are all kinds of scientifically-based medical arguments for doing so. Much of the debate stems from being told what to do, something none of us really like. But when a mother implores people to wear one, for the sake of her immunocompromised daughter and others like her, what should our response be? That we didn’t sign up to take on responsibility for others? That we’re not going to live in fear, and if that means disregarding the needs of our most vulnerable, so be it?
Or could it be that wearing a properly designed mask, in the proper manner, truly is loving our neighbor as ourself?
I believe it is, and I wear a mask (plus wash my hands and, when possible, stay at least six feet away) to protect you. It’s the least I can do for my neighbors.