In our current circumstance, I’m sure you, like me, are thinking a great deal about the people around you. Especially in high traffic areas like the grocery store and . . . the grocery store, since that’s really the only place to go anymore. Not the passing thought of “Oh, I wonder where she bought those cute shoes.” But zeroed in like the Secret Service on high alert, assessing each aisle like a motorcade route in Dallas 1963. “Is it possible for me to reach the Ovaltine without coming within six feet of the woman with the mask whose been pondering the nutritional value of Nesquik for the last five minutes?” When I saw pictures like this one my initial response was “You have got to be kidding me.” But now I think I get it. This guy just wants a little clarity, clearly defined boundaries, no guesswork.
All of this was going through my mind yesterday while shopping and recovering from a most unpleasant encounter with a member “at work”. I deal with a lot of unpleasantness as a part of my job, so it takes a special kind of rude to make me mad or cry. This guy did both. This guy was clearly a distant cousin of Hitler himself and destined to a special ring of Dante’s Inferno reserved for mass murderers, people who leave their grocery cart in the parking lot, and guys who yell at people over the phone who are just trying to do their job. But by the time I got to the store, I was considering the fact that I was forming a firm, and perhaps overly-dramatic, opinion of this guy based on a fifteen minute interaction. Surely there were times when I had been on less than my best behavior and left a bad taste in someone’s mouth. Did I really want people cherry picking when it comes to making assessments of the full measure of my character?
So as I navigated the minefield of contamination, I thought about the people I could touch. Not reach out and touch physically. Pretty sure that would get me arrested at this point. But touch with a smile or a kind word or a moment of patience. Pre-Coronavirus, after talking all day, the temptation for me to stick in my earbuds and get lost in my own podcast world would have been strong indeed. But with a heightened awareness of those around me and the power I have to spread “germs” of good or ill, I am going to try to contaminate as many people with kindness and love as I can. I don’t want to be judged on the briefest of encounters and certainly want to resist the temptation to do so to others. But at the same time, I want to be mindful of the power of those encounters. If our bodies can be put into crisis through exposure to the tiniest of contaminations, maybe the world can be made better through exposure to the smallest acts of kindness. We may not be able to heal those suffering or reopen the economy, but that doesn’t mean we are powerless. Let’s infect the world with light and love. Surely that is ultimately the cure for what ails us all.