No covering can stifle compassion
We’ve traveled to a distant city to meet some friends. After months of lockdowns and isolation, seeing them again is food for the soul and health to the bones. It’s time for a fiesta and so, like one of the 12 tribes of Israel, we march in line behind the hostess to the tables that are ready and waiting. Bring the manna.
The dark-haired waiter is wearing a mask. He deftly places baskets of chips, bowls of salsa, and creamy jalapeno dressing. Am I drooling? I check my chin surreptitiously. No, all is well.
Orders placed, the conversation resumes. Our friends have returned from convention where Governor Kristi Noem (SD) spoke in person. They recount the story of her family and the ranch, her father’s early death, the event that sent her into politics, and how God’s hand had led her. It had encouraged their hearts and strengthened their faith.
Just listening, I can feel it, too. Spontaneously, I cheer with a fist pump, “Yea!” just as the waiter returns with more golden mounds of tortilla-chip perfection. His eyebrows raise, becoming one with his hairline.
“My goodness. I’ve never had anyone show such excitement about our chips.” His eyes, they crinkle above his mask. Laughter sweeps the table, bringing relief.
I cannot help but watch him as he moves back and forth between our tables. A tattoo circles one muscular bicep, disappearing up into his sleeve. Something about him plucks at my heart, and I know that divine, loving nudge. When he returns to our table, I say to him, “Would you do me a favor?”
Brown eyes glint at me. “Sure.”
“Would you pull your mask down and smile at me?”
Surprise etches his features. “Why?”
Looking full in his face, I say, “Because you’re such a delight. You’re doing a good job, and I’d like to see you.” And there it comes. A bright, white smile. Warmth has infused his countenance, erasing trouble and care.
But I’m not done. “Is your mother still alive?”
“Yes, she is. I just saw her yesterday.” He tells us about his mother, a retired school teacher, and his father who’s convalescing from surgery.
“I want you to tell her that you’re doing a good job.” That’s what I tell him. “I have four boys, and it means so much to me when someone says something nice about one of them.”
For a few, ephemeral moments in a noisy restaurant far away, there is no COVID. No lockdowns. No isolation. No left or right or red or blue. Only humans, noticing and affirming and, well, loving someone else. Loving their fellow man.
“This has been a good day!” That’s what he says, my new friend whose name I now know, and I’ve asked God to bless him by name.
“There is no fear in love,” John said. “Perfect love drives out fear. We love Him because He first loved us (I John 4:18a, 19).”
Today I remember that no regulations or masks can stifle compassion, that no virus is greater than love. Faith, hope, and love are infectious, too, and I can choose to be a carrier of those. So can you, and that’s how the world can be changed.