Can We Afford to Mock and Bully Each Other? 

Yesterday I was in my local fabric shop. I appreciate that this small town has such a great shop that feeds my creativity. The fabric selection is lovely. They do not require masks of their patrons or staff. I choose to shop there rather than online or in another town because I want them to be here, in my town. Fabric is important to my equilibrium.
In the first few minutes of my entering the shop the staff person on duty and I struck up a conversation about boys in our lives that we taught to sew. She then told me that the boy she taught, was teased and it ended his interest in sewing. This made me sad and my reply was, “If we could figure out how to stop bullying, an awful lot of violence would be eliminated in this world. I wish our society could figure out how to not bully each other as kids and as adults.”
Moments later another customer entered the store and upon noticing my masked presence, started talking about “sheeple” and actually making the “ba’ah” sound several times over. Making it clear to me, her opinion of my mask.
I was shocked that this was happening – on the heels of the conversation I’d just had, I was being mocked, bullied, ridiculed by an adult. I resisted the urge to put the fabric down and leave because that seemed like giving her what she wanted – for me to not be in the store. I went to the back of the store to pray and gather my thoughts. I tried to work up the words to approach the other customer directly but I didn’t find them until today.
First of all, I respect that you can choose to not wear a mask. Can you be respectful and civil of my different choice? Does bullying me really help me understand you or you understand me? Did you feel good about treating me that way when you left the shop? Did you tell others about how you shamed the mask wearing fabric lover? Did it make you feel powerful? I just want to understand why you said what you said.
I ask that you consider these possibilities:
Maybe I’ve had COVID and can’t afford to get it a second time.
Maybe I’m immune compromised and getting COVID is dangerous for me or someone I live with.
Maybe I’ve had a loved one die of COVID and it hurt to watch them suffer alone.
Maybe wearing a mask simply brings me a peace of mind that doesn’t come easily during a time when my scheduled life was interrupted.
Maybe a year from now no one will wear a mask because we understand COVID better.
Maybe everyone will be wearing a mask because we understand COVID better.
Maybe I will die in a car accident and you will die of a heart attack and COVID will be irrelevant in our dying.
Maybe neither of us know the right things today.
If your actions had driven me away from the shop, does that help our local economy? Do you want the fabric shop to survive the pandemic? I do. Which means my money spent counts too. The unmasked staff were very respectful and kind, allowing physical distance  during my time in the shop.
Can we afford to push each other away in our local economy? Can our emotional economy survive this division in our small community? What if a day comes when we need each other? What if that day is today? Do we want to be resistant to helping each other because of our differences? Can we afford the battering of each other spiritually? My God says, “To be kind is better than being right.”
Here is what we have in common – a love of fine and beautiful fabric that we use in our homes, a love of sewing and creating things for our families to enjoy. Can we keep that common thread while in the fabric shop instead of making us enemies for our pandemic lifestyle choices? Our political differences? I don’t go to the fabric store to talk politics, I go there to talk about fabric and sewing.
My prayer is that each stitch we collectively sew during this pandemic cultivate more respect, civility, and appreciation for all humans. Where each project trims away our judgements and bullying ways in the interest of having a community that cares for everyone.
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