This is the season of Covid. If you haven’t been able to buy a mask, no problem. Home shops are popping up all over, with a variety of custom made masks. Churches have “Sew-ins” to provide masks. Personally, a neighbor made us two. And we were so grateful because we didn’t have any until that point.
Serve and Protect
What is it for? It is to serve us well. It is to protect ourselves as well as others and it plays a vital role. A mask made of an old sock, or an old sweater, or even a scarf works better than nothing.
Something’s Lost but Something’s Gained
Certainly the use of masks has been pivotal in this Pandemic. And for those who work as essential workers and in public health they are a necessity. But have we lost something as well?
55% of communication is visual. Traditional masks block faces and prevent our ability to see facial expressions and emotions, catch visual cues, and communicate.
The first time I became aware of this dynamic I was at a store with my mask on. My glasses were steaming up, as I’ve heard is a common occurrence. And then I saw her: was it my friend Alice? Of course, we were standing 6 ft. apart, so I wasn’t sure it was her. We both wore glasses, mine getting foggier by the moment. Looking through the haze of the mask I was keenly aware of the lack of interaction—the lack of touch—the connection. No eye contact. It was almost as if there was a shame within us.
When I got back to my van I wanted to cry. This Pandemic had eroded a human connection that we all felt, and all needed.
A Human Connection
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?”
Which brings me to the point of the Mask.
So much of our human interaction is through our facial recognition, our eyes and our speech. As we are getting older, the need for hearing aids is looming in the distance.
For those who are hearing impaired, this dynamic is everyday.
Facial coverings muffle sounds. And there is no lip reading. Perhaps I can hear you, but can I understand you?
It is so tempting to raise my mask to clarify what I’m trying to say.
And I’ve noticed that as soon as I am out of the store, I rip the mask off.
Hearing impaired individuals do not have this luxury.
We recently had a relative admitted to the hospital for a procedure; this person is deaf and can only relate through signing and lip reading. Imagine the difficulty of his situation: unable to see the care giver’s lips move. Unable to hear. And unable to have a care giver with them to interpret.
The world is a tough place for those with disabilities. The Pandemic has made this abundantly clear.
As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.
Masks and Other Masks
This Pandemic has taken so much from us. Many are in isolation, unable to see friends and family. They see care givers with masks on. In some cases, robed up with protective gear from head to foot. It is like a horror movie come to life.
And for those dear ill ones, is there no succor?
The Clear Center
And so there is the mask with the clear center. In this way, we can see the mouth and lip read to a certain degree. It is the beginning of effective connection and communication. Companies are now producing these masks in response to the hearing impaired. And there are numerous youtube tutorials on how to make your own.
The Face Copy Mask
In rough first tries, the care taker has made a copy of their face and taped it to the front of the Personal Protective Equipment. When they are caring for the ill patient, the patient can see who is “behind” the mask. Now, companies, are creating these masks:
“We make respiratory masks that look like your face. While our N95 TrueDepth compatible masks are still in production, our first product to market will be a fabric mask that resembles you, making it easier to recognize you during a viral pandemic.”
Of course, if the picture of the face is immovable? And the person is speaking? It seems this would be a surreal dynamic.
Funny Masks One clip on Youtube had a woman with a mask that seemed to be a simple smile. But when she pulled the top and bottom, it revealed a toothy grin. She took immense pride in the mask. You couldn’t help but laugh: her joy was full. You could see the sparkle in her eyes, and we knew she was laughing behind the mask. Despite the mask, her humanity came through.
A New Normal
We are nearing the opening of many of our states. Face masks are still required. We long for the day when we can come and go freely without restrictions, without fear. We do not know when that will be. But if nothing else, this has taught us the limitations we have with masks, and the limitations of the hearing impaired community.
And we know that God, in His great mercy, turns His face upon us unclothed, unfettered, and full of peace.
Numbers 6:24-2624 “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’
1 Cor 13:12
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And to be fully known? Isn’t this the desire of our hearts?
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. to be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Timothy Keller