Like it or not, wearing a mask in public is now a way of life here in the Commonwealth of Virginia and more than 30 other states in this nation.
So is social distancing, frequent hand washings, and other adjustments to a life driven by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
When I drove to Food Lion in Floyd, the strap on my face mask broke as I put in on before leaving the car and found that I didn’t have another mask in the glove box or console, so I pulled my t-shirt up over my face as a temporary mask.
A store employee saw my predicament and said “I’ll be right back.” She returned with several masks.
“Thank you so much,” I said. “How much do I owe you?”
“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Just be safe.”
Her actions made me feel better in a store where I have complained about the number of customers not wearing masks. An employee stepped up when safety was needed.
That’s the second time this year that an employee of Food Lion has helped me in a time of need. A couple of months ago, my right knee collapsed and I went down to the floor. A young employee of the store immediately came to my aid and pulled me up to a standing position and asked if I needed more help.
Such actions give us hope as the pandemic continues to redefine our lives. They also help make up for those who use anger, hate, and insults against those who try to be safe.
I thought about this when I read a social media post by a Floyd businessman who tried to help a woman who tried to enter a business that required wearing a mask (as all are required to do under Virginia law).
To help her out, he took a work order out and came under fire for wearing a mask and demanded to know if he “knew Jesus.” When he told her he was raised Catholic, she screamed that “Catholics aren’t Christians” and his mask was a “mark of the beast,” insulted his masculinity, and said the virus was fake.
Being religious is one thing. Being a zealot who uses religion to spread hate and distrust is hardly faith in God. She refused to do business with him. He didn’t need her business anyway.
I know the businessman. He repairs computers and does good work. He does not deserve the way he was treated at where he does business. Sadly, what happened to him is not unique in an area where bible thumpers use religion as a way to spread their own hate, bias, and bigotry.
Sadly, there is a big difference between those who use religion to help spread faith and those who turn it into a vile excuse to supplement their own biases.
We live now in a society where elected “leaders” spread misinformation, lie outright, and preach hate and division. They have made this pandemic far worse than it should have been because they put their own political agendas over the needs of the people they swore to serve.
In recent weeks, I have been called a “coward” or a “pussy” or “less than a man” because I choose to wear a mask and try to observe social distancing and other measures to deal with a pandemic that is redefining life as we know it.
I think about the lady at Food Lion who went out of her way to make sure I had a mask I needed after the strap on mine broke. She gives me hope we can do what is necessary to live a way that redefines “normal.”
Then I see a religious zealot who tells a local businessman raised Catholic that is is “not a Christian” and calls the mask he is wearing a “mark of the beast” and I worry that bigots like her make our challenges more difficult and, perhaps, unbeatable.
My wife grew up in a Catholic family. I was raised Presbyterian. She is far more religious than I and if anyone tries to claim she is not “a true Christian,” my response will not be close to any “Christian way.”