By Fr. Jamie Forsythe
Pastor, Holy Angels National Catholic Church
Within the next month or two, the social distancing directives will end. But, COVID-19 will not. What will happen in society when the government is no longer telling citizens how to act in public? Already groups of protesters are rallying against the social distancing rules, with no concern about how their actions may be putting themselves and others in harm. As restrictions are being lifted, people are flocking to stores standing in line for the new Nike® shoes and hanging out in large groups at the beaches and in the parks. Does life return to the way it was, the past two months nothing more than a nightmare from which the country has awakened?
In general terms, there are two basic motivations for human action: fear and love. Decisions made in fear are usually centered on the person, decisions made in love focus on the other. Actions that are motivated by love build hope, trust, peace, and joy, whereas fear-based actions can lead to anxiety and anger. In the current pandemic, it is a great temptation to fall into fear-based actions. People hoard food and basic supplies (does anyone really need three cases of toilet paper?). After toilet paper, one of the biggest items being purchased was ammunition, so people could protect their stockpiles.
When social distancing guidelines are viewed through eyes of fear, then the government is trying to take away our rights. Americans have the right to liberty and happiness, so the right to go to the beauty shop overrides the need for public safety. Fear-based perspectives wear masks to keep the person safe from the other, who are seen as potential doers of harm.
Acting from a place of love recognizes that the wearing of face masks is to protect the other from us. Social distancing is an act of respect for the health of the other. Those actions do not require an outside force to impose restrictions, the care of others comes from within, from our hearts. While social distancing measures will be modified, caution and respect remain. Hugging friends – maybe yes, giving kisses to our friends – maybe not so much. Social interaction is an important need for us humans; the challenge is how to best do it while respecting the health and well-being of others.
This will be a part of the new normal: to love and be loved, but to do no harm. We approach this new normal in faith and trust. We believe that the power of love will sustain us as we learn new ways to interact. With the grace of God, may the new normal of the world be based not in fear, but in love!