One of my favorite television shows growing up was “The Lone Ranger.” It was a western adventure series that featured the story of the sole survivor of a group of Texas Rangers (not the baseball team) who was nursed back to health by a trusty Native American named Tonto, who then became his lifelong companion. Together they roamed the Old West, defending helpless souls of all kind against the forces of evil. The Lone Ranger’s trademark was a mask he wore to conceal his identity as he went about battling outlaws of various persuasions. Each episode in the series ended with the Lone Ranger riding off from having saved the day on his trusty steed Silver, while someone baffled by the sight would always ask, “Who was that masked man?” To which the person who had just been saved would always answer, “That was the Lone Ranger!"
While thinking back to the series reminds me of how they don’t make shows like they once did, time does have a way of coming back around to where the true champions of today are still willing to don a mask.
It’s reached a point in our society to where the wearing of a mask has become more than a means by which to contribute to the public’s health in a time of pandemic. It has now become something of a political football, where depending on what side of the continuum you fall, you either see the wearing of a mask as an infringement upon your personal liberty, or a statement of it.
The way everything about this present pandemic has been politicized troubles me. Using a crisis for promoting a political agenda seems insensitive at best and manipulative at worst. Too much is at stake for folk to employ anything about this time as a wedge to drive us farther apart. Each of us should instead be considering ways to contribute to our culture’s healing every way we can – medically, emotionally, relationally, and of course, spiritually.
I’ll be the first to admit that I never saw myself wearing a mask, at least not after I graduated from Halloween activities. The only people I knew who wore them were bank robbers and thieves and people from other cultures, whom I assumed did so because of how they must have perceived the rest of us as threats to their well-being. But now I have been made more aware of how my assumptions were way off-base, at least in terms of those from other cultures who wear masks. In those cultures masks are actually an expression of social respect, and it is the height of disrespect not to wear one.
As our state and nation begin to reopen, it seems to me that we have to be rethinking a lot, including the importance of wearing a mask when we’re out for the benefit of others, with no real concern for its benefits for us. I kid you not; I felt quite goofy at first when I slapped on my mask to wade into the masses at the grocery store or the home improvement store. But now it has become second nature and I even look at those maskless faces and wonder, “What are you people thinking?” Yes, I am well aware of my smugness, but that’s another thing I’ll be working on while I try to keep my priorities in order, chief of which should be my contribution to helping us get past this season by not inadvertently infecting everyone around me.
From what I understand, we’re going to be in this situation for the foreseeable future, at least until someone comes up with a vaccine that is a safe and proven remedy for this “invisible enemy” no one saw coming. So, as Governor Ivey has told us, while we’re “safer at home,” when we venture out to interact with others, a mask is just the right thing to wear. In fact, I can’t think of a venue (not even church!) where we will be able to gather in large numbers without one. It will be our best means of protecting others against us.
Come to think about it, the Lone Ranger’s mask wasn’t just a random piece of cloth from which he fashioned his signature trademark. It came from the Texas Ranger vest of his brother who had, with the other deceased Rangers, had been ambushed by the bad guys from the Butch Cavendish gang. The Lone Ranger’s mask, therefore, was more than just a way to conceal his identity; it was the means by which he would honor his brother as he went after the bad guys in every episode in order to save the day.
In some small way perhaps our wearing of the mask can do the same in our day. Fortunately, we don’t have to be Lone Rangers in the effort. If enough of us heed the recommendations of our public health officials and take such precautions, it may be that even if others won’t recognize our identities, they’ll be able to recognize our hearts, which in the end is surely something that none of us should be ashamed to do.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).