If I am like every other blue-collar American worker, I have had my fair share of grocery store runs during the age of Covid. Recently I took a trek to the local Walmart, mask in tow, in order to grab some quick things that we needed immediately and could not get through the pickup. As I walked in, a rather nice employee greeted me while another one was keeping tabs of people as they entered. Once through the sliding doors, a nice elderly employee offered me a sanitized cart. I thought to myself, “Wow, Walmart has really outdone themselves. They’re actually policing the mask ordinance!” It took two steps past the USA theme Pepsi stack to show me how incredibly naïve I was. Not to shame Walmart for their malfeasance regarding policing the mask mandate once customers entered the store, but is it truly that hard to ask customers, once they’re inside, to keep the mask on?
I mention this story because I want you to consider a few things. First off, I understand we hate wearing the mask. Trust me, mine currently smells like rotten milk because I am 99% sure my child used my mask to clean up spilt milk. Therefore, if I can take a spoiled milk-smelling mask for 15 minutes while I make a quick grocery run, I believe others can survive with a clean one. Aside from discomfort, it is not the most fashionable attire out there. I am not a single man, but if I were, I am sure wearing a mask would not help me pick up the ladies. Yet, aside from discomfort and a first class ticket to Fashion Jail, I wear the mask. Partly out of personal health reasons, but also because I want to be polite to those around me. I do not know their life stories or what health issues they may have, but I know that me dawning the mask gives them a sense of peace and comfort as they shop; and for me that is worth the 15 minutes of pain.
Furthermore, the wearing of a mask does help reduce the spread of Covid-19, regardless of what Aunt Becky’s shared Facebook post from her eighth Cousin Bill’s best friend’s niece says. I am not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I know that if I have a cold and I breathe my germs around others, chances are that cold is going to spread. So if I cover my mouth with something, you know like a mask, then the chances of that cold spreading are diminished specifically because the germs are not floating all over the place. If we take this terrible analogy and replace “cold” with “Covid-19”, we essentially get the same thing. And yes, we can discuss the difference between this type of mask versus those types of masks; but in the end does it truly matter? As long as you are not breathing all over the place, do we really care what is covering your mouth? The answer is simple: no. We just want you to reduce the spread of Covid by wearing the mask.
Finally, my main point for this letter, the biggest reason we need to wear the mask is for our students. Maybe I am a bit biased, I am a teacher after all, but I believe the most important place a student can learn is in the classroom. A classroom is more than just the teacher lecturing or assigning work. It’s a place where friendships are made, love is born—and maybe even ruined—a place where memories are made, and vast amounts of knowledge are gained, both academic skillsets and life lessons. The building itself is even a refuge from the outside world. It protects all who enter it, ensuring their safety and the safety of others. It provides protection from the elements and is a safe haven for those who may have a rough home life. School is, in essence, the perfect place for our children to grow up. Yet, your failure to wear a mask hinders the ability for our students to enter the schoolhouse. The more cases continue to increase, the less likely we are to begin school on time and in person.
So if you despise wearing a mask, but you understand the importance of our children returning to the classroom, then please put it on. If you give even the simplest amount of care for those around you, put it on. If you want to protect yourself and those you love, put it on. But most importantly, just be a decent human and PUT. IT. ON.