Last Friday I went to Shoprite with my husband and for the first time since March 13, 2020 we did not wear masks.  It was a little strange.  It was certainly easier to move through the store.  It was certainly easier to see the small print on items.  It was easier to speak and hear without being muffled.  However, it was strange and a little disconcerting.

Mask regulations have been lifted here in NJ.  However, places of business have the right to request that you wear a mask. I'm good with that.  I would never challenge that because you never know what circumstances that business might be facing.

I have to admit that I'm a little apprehensive about taking off the mask.  It took me a while to get into the mask mode.  (Who had a mask on hand early last  year?  Certainly not me!)  I had to find a face covering.  Remember this?  

(Not very attractive)

Or how about:

(A gift from a neighbor) 

I even got trendy on vacation:

Masks were (and still are in some cases) and essential part of daily life.  I have masks for just about every occasion.  I have a Haunted Mansion for Halloween. I have a "Grinch" one for Christmas.  I have St. Patrick's Day and Easter masks.  I have masks that show my love for Disney World and Twin Peaks!  I have a lot of masks.

They reside in a basked by the front door; not too far away from where I hang my keys.  There are also disposable ones ready for use.  (My son insists on wearing those to school.)  There are always a few extra in my car; available for anyone who might need them.  I also keep a spare (lightweight) scarf which could be used in a pinch.  (And I did use more than once!)

 My masks are not going away however. The basket will stay.  The extras in my car will stay.  They may not be mandated everywhere, but I will have them "just in case."  

Now when my husband and I go shopping we gage the room.  We have been vaccinated, but if there is a request on the door to wear a mask, we do.  Even though the sign may say you only have to wear if you haven't been vaccinated, if the majority of people in attendance are wearing, we will too.  It doesn't hurt.

As I write this, the thrift shop where I volunteer no longer will require masks.  However, the policy upstairs in the church sanctuary IS to wear masks as we have many members who are elderly and some who are immuno-compromised.  Wearing a mask while shopping downstairs in the thrift shop is ok, but upstairs during the service I will follow the guidelines.  I will wear a mask.  I will stay socially distant.  I will elbow bump and not hug.  There will be a time for hugs and mask removal in this space, but the time is not yet now.  And that's ok.

It's ok to be unmasked if you are vaccinated.  It's also ok to wear a mask.  There is no hard and set rule.  Being kind, being cognizant of those around you is what we should be now as we transition and emerge from the pandemic that we've lived in for over a year.

I'll be glad when we are all fully unmasked.  But I hope we have learned from this experience.  Learned that we need to care for one another.  Kindness sometimes comes in the form of a mask.  Love is sometimes shown by NOT hugging.  Patience and persistence (in the form of caution) will bring us home.


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