Last evening while I sat there consumed by dread and anxiety, I felt a tap on my shoulder that brought me back to earth. As I turned to see my two-year-old daughter, I had the presence of mind to compose my face into the one that she can relate to. My innocent toddler would not understand a face worn with care over the pandemic and economic trends; she is used to the one that beams at her lovingly. Although she asked what I was doing, trying to explain to her what I was thinking would have been a waste of her precious time. So I just smiled in response and swept her in my arms. But she had loftier ideas than being carried about, she wanted us to dance. Even if there was no music I followed her lead and we danced away. To an onlooker I looked like a carefree father dancing with his daughter although deep down I was filled with dread. I had to wear the happy, carefree mask to be what my daughter wanted in that moment.
As I pondered on the ability of masks to cover up the unwanted and protect those we love, I remembered my friend Wilfred. Wilfred had to watch his wife; a once vibrant woman suffer from migraines for a whole year and die. He spent most of his time and resources looking for the best doctors within and outside the country to save her life. One doctor after the other failed to diagnose and treat the problem. He hardly slept for that whole year as he spent most of the time praying and trying to soothe his wife’s pain. He also had to protect the children from the trauma of seeing their mother in that condition. He became the mother, the maid and in the morning he had to suit up and be the father; drive children to school and go to work.
His team mates and customers expected him to deliver professional, fast and exceptional service. To continue performing optimally, he would arrive early at office take a one-hour nap in his car, wear the mask of an efficient and focused worker and do his duty. Few of his relatives, colleagues and bosses knew about the hell at home; he did not need their pity.
These are the masks we all wear on daily basis. That doctor who just saved your life might be masking a cancer that will eat him a way within a year. The teacher doing an excellent job at an international school has to live with the fact that their own children are falling behind in UPE. Counselors put on masks to help families thrive while they are executing divorce papers. Bankers put on masks to provide financing solutions yet they are also sinking in debt.
It is the people that have experienced suffering that respond fast to those in need because pain has taught them empathy. We soon become the masks we put on either consciously or unconsciously. If you repeatedly put on a mask of love and kindness, you soon become that. If it is a mask of fierceness or brutality, you soon become that.
We all cover our bodies with the best fabric and a smile to look presentable and acceptable in public, yet our bodies are bruised and agonizing with pain. In the Old Testament, God directed Joshua to put on a mask of determination and confidence to defeat Jericho. Much as the battle was for the Lord, Joshua had to rise up with his small and weak army and match in the name of the Lord. Thus the masks become a very important part of our attire every morning as we rise up to face a new day. In fact we have been wearing masks for a long time even if we were not aware of it. Our challenge is to choose the right mask. The mask of love not hate, peace not antimony, mercy not judgment, protection not oppression, support not destruction. Just go ahead, wear that mask today and save a life.
Written by Ronald Kasasa
Mr Kasasa is Head of Business Banking at dfcu Bank