We are in the midst of a global pandemic with COVID-19 cases rising significantly in so many places. In an attempt to limit the spread, and keep the number of cases from overwhelming the available resources, governments, hospital workers and many others are urging people to wear masks and stay six feet apart. That seems a very simple request to preserve life and prevent further financial disasters for many families.
BUT there are a number of people who feel their rights are being taken away. “No one can tell ME what to do!” “I have my rights!” “You’ve gone too far this time!”
What are they REALLY saying? “My rights are more important than your life or well-being.” “My rights mean I can do what I want to do and no one else really matters.” “I come first!”
These statements are the result of a sense of entitlement – power, prerogative, privilege. Americans have long been moving in the direction of independent, self-reliance and individuality. In themselves, these traits are not bad. We value these principles a lot. However, when they come without the balance of care for others, compassion, humility, and self-sacrifice it becomes the ultimate selfishness.
Wearing a mask is not to protect the wearer, it is to protect those who come close to the wearer. That person may have underlying health conditions that you can’t see. And without your mask properly in place, they may end up on a ventilator. You may be the carrier that makes them sick and that sickness may result in thousands of dollars in medical bills, loss of jobs and even death.
We live in a community, and if we fail to protect the community because of our independent spirits, we will find ourselves the less for it. We must not fail to care for those around us. In the words of Henri Nouwen, “To care is to be present to those who suffer and to stay present even when nothing can be done to change their situation. To care is to be compassionate and so to form a community of people honestly facing the painful reality of our finite existence. To care is the most human gesture, in which the courageous confession of our common brokenness does not lead to paralysis but to community.”[i]
[i] "You are the Beloved" by Henri J.M. Nouwen © 2017 by The Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust. Published by Convergent Books.