To mask or not to mask, that is the question; whether it’s better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or take measures to protect ourselves and others from our unseen enemy, the virus.

To admit I’m bewildered by the angry resistance to mask wearing is an understatement. To confess being stunned upon hearing the Attorney General equate mask wearing with slavery is mind boggling. To say I was shocked seeing pictures of people trashing a store simply because they were told they needed to wear a face mask almost defies belief. When and how has resisting kindness and consideration for others become a test of citizenship? When did we stop being concerned about the common good?

I recognize that focusing on mask wearing may provide some sense of control in a world turned upside down. It’s difficult living with uncertainty and chaos. It’s true trying times such as these bring out the best and worst in us. But equating simple acts of kindness and practical hygiene with 1st Amendment rights? Really?

Even though life as we’ve known it is no more, we still have options. We can focus on each and every disappointment and unmet expectation and wallow in self pity and anger, or we count to ten, step back from that abyss called rage and find something good in the moment. We can scream at bearers of bad news, or recognize they are only doing their job. We can look at shut-downs and virtual learning as a personal affront, or we can recognize that today’s difficulty is designed to prevent tomorrow’s loss and pain. We can refuse to wear face masks when in public or we can do what we can to help defeat this virus. Painful as it is, we can maintain a safe social distance when shopping or in crowds. We can be good neighbors by respecting others and toning down the rhetoric. We can look down and see only mud, or we can look up and see stars.

I doubt if the individual who coined the phrase “random acts of kindness” anticipated just how appropriate that advice would be for these chaotic times. Kindness and consideration are the perfect antidotes to today’s pandemic blues. I am reminded of the 12 step saying, “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” While we can’t ignore the painful changes, job losses, insane school schedules etc., we can avoid a lot of misery by stepping up to each day’s challenges with an attitude of gratitude. In the end, it will not be the ease of living, the lack of difficulty, or even wealth or fame that defines our success or failure in this endeavor called life. It will be our willingness to focus on the stars of kindness, the sunshine of love, and the clouds of forgiveness... even when our feet are mired in the mud.

Joyce Shutt is the pastor of Fairfield Mennonite Church. She also writes a blog that can be found on Facebook, under Steps to Hope.net.

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