How are we treating the strangers in our midst?
On two separate occasions last week, I was berated by a stranger. One was a woman bagging groceries at Kroger. I asked her how she was doing with all this, and apparently she had heard that question one too many times. Suffice to say, she is not doing well with it. The other was a woman on my street who found serious fault with my parenting choices and my dog-care choices and my very fact of being, it seems. She was within her legal rights with (most) everything she said but was far out of bounds when it comes to showing courtesy and respect. As our city is beginning to reopen, bad energy seems to be seeping out with it.
Have any of you had experiences like this recently? What happened? How did you feel? Have you found that our collective anxiety is slowly leaking vitriol? Amidst the scuttling nods and half-waves, is there mostly just fear?
One answer is yes: how could there not be? When every human being that crosses our path is a possible carrier and therefore a possible threat to our survival and by extension the survival of our loved ones, how do we not lash out or shut out or freak out? Our anxiety might be eating us alive, and we don’t even know it. We might be enjoying the slower pace of living, we might be thankful for the shift in priorities, and then spite sneaks up on us. We don’t know how afraid and angry and judgmental we are until it expresses itself, literally, like sour juice from a lemon.
As we enter this phase of reopening, I have been pondering a favorite word of mine: the beautiful term, ephphatha, which Jesus spoke when healing the man from Decalopis who could not hear nor speak. Ephphatha translates “be opened.” I want this word prayed over me. I want this word prayed over all of us.
I have no answer for how we be opened as we reopen. I have no answer for how we smile while wearing a mask. I have no answer for how we touch while keeping six-feet distance. Grace, I guess. Giving and receiving grace is always the right answer.