Opinion: Protecting our humanity
I’d like to make a public plea.
Try to remember to smile and say “hello” to each other, even from behind a mask. And smile and say “hello” to children and babies, even from behind a mask.
This is all so difficult on everyone, but what breaks my heart more than anything is when I feel like we are losing our humanity.
There was a moment I experienced recently that triggered a profound sadness about everything we have been through, are going through and what is yet to come.
A visiting family member requested my child not go near her two children because it is impossible to tell an 18-month old child to stay 6 feet away.
I respect this, regardless of my opinions or calculation of risk for my own daughter, and I hope that we can all remember to respect each other’s differing levels of comfort, boundaries and sense of safety.
We don’t have to agree, but we should respect each other. So, I planned to stay away. However, her kids approached where I was standing with my child, who was running around — as is her constant state of motion.
And the kids — both around the age of 10 — didn’t know how to react. They had been told not to go near my kid. But they didn’t smile, and they didn’t say hi. They stood there, staring at her like she was a leper.
At that moment, I looked into my daughter’s eyes, and her tiny face — typically so full of joy — was now beset with a look of confusion and sadness. And it struck me like a dagger to my soul. A short while later, as I was in my car, I wept at that sad little face now stuck in my brain.
Of course, at 1 1/2 years old, my daughter is resilient and entirely unaware of the pandemic-related reality in which she exists. Her attention span lasts only seconds.
We pretend masks are funny and play peekaboo. She likes to try to put the masks on her dogs and stuffed animals.
But in that moment, she internalized that reaction of fear toward her from these kids she idolizes and with whom she loves to play. Of course, it is not the kids’ fault for not knowing how to act, for not realizing they could still wave and smile and say “hello” from 6 feet away.
And it is not their parents’ fault for wanting to protect their kids.
But I think this moment can serve as a reminder, especially as we start to see each other more — and even dine next to each other at a restaurant.
Please remember that we are all human.
Please keep a kind heart and remember that we are all trying to navigate this as best we can. Please remember this sucks for everyone. And remember we all have a different personal calculation of risk.
Please practice some basic level of patience and decency toward your fellow humans of all ages and opinions.
And please don’t stop smiling at babies.
Kari Dequine Harden is a journalist, a reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today and a mom. She and her husband live in Soutt Routt and run the Antlers Cafe & Bar in Yampa.
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