In the 2021 world, it has become commonplace for one person to denigrate another for their choice about their choice regarding masks and vaccines. Until a few days ago, I had not personally encountered a person like this, and to be honest, I wondered how I would handle such a situation.
Where I live in East Tennessee, we are considered an international biosphere. We have it all. Including all the pollens and allergens imaginable. Sometimes at the same time. Right now, ragweed, chenopods, grass, nettle, and mold are out and about. Sniffles, sneezes, and coughs are the reactions my body has to the introduction of those lovelies.
That Friday was a nice day. I had just received clearance from the surgical oncologist to ease back into my usual daily life. Since we were in the big city of Knoxville for that office visit, we decided to make it a fruitful trip and went shopping for a formal gown I’ll need for my publisher’s conference coming in a few weeks.
Having been cleared to bear weight on my affected leg, we parked out in no man’s land, enjoying the fresh, though pollen-laden, air and the movement. As we walked toward the door, a woman was walking toward us in the parking lot. She was ten or more car spaces away from us when she started gesturing and yelling through her two masks.
It was clear she was agitated, perhaps even angry. We weren’t close enough to gauge for sure. Her words were muffled, but I caught some of them. The gist of her angst was that neither my husband nor I were masked as we walked in the parking lot. We were “trying to kill her” and we “weren’t going to get away with it.”
She zigged to her right, but that would put her in the middle of traffic’s path, so she then zagged to her left, which kept her in the path of Jack and I. Once past the cars parked in that area, leaving a half dozen empty spaces, she darted over, walking all the way to the other row where no one else was walking. She was still yelling, though I couldn’t make out any clear words.
I was a bit shocked. I have experienced those looks of concern by people who walked distant from me, but never anyone so up in arms to yell, gesture, and accuse me of attempted murder.
My response? The only thing I could bring my mouth to say was, “Have a nice day, ma’am.”
Now, some of you who know me may be thinking I did that with a sarcastic tone, but not this time. I saw something in this woman that nipped that right in the bud.
Fear. Abject fear. Paralyzing fear. Fear that made her steps halting, and her reactions odd and unusual.
When we arrived in the store she had just left, the people around the cashier stand were still talking about her. Apparently she had made a scene there.
Fear leads us to do things we never thought we would, but veils itself so that we think we’re courageous and rational.
Hear me, I don’t at all think the woman was insane. I think she was scared to death. So much so that she saw every other human as a threat to her wellbeing, to the point of her imminent death.
In the end, I feel sorry for her. I feel sad that she is living in such a state when I know that the peace she desperately needs is so close and so available to her.
This giving a gentle answer seems difficult when you want to make a smart-alec comment, but you know my thinking is, if God says do it, it’s possible for you to do exactly what He says.
I’m here to tell you that God’s word is true. Even though the woman was on the other aisle from us, a good distance away, when I said “Have a nice day, ma’am,” she replied, “You too!” in a voice that was not halting or frightened or angry. Just a normal moment in a parking lot between two strangers headed in different directions.
What is your experience with fearful or argumentative people? How did you respond? What happened? How can we do things better?