I, like most of you, have given this COVID-19 pandemic a lot of thought.

Please understand that I fully grasp the seriousness of its impact. Early in the outbreak, I lost a friend who was as fine a man as I have ever known. A few months later, one of my younger brothers had a frightening close call with the virus. Since then, others I had known have passed away.

Over the course of many months, I have observed this virus to be most virulent when numbers of people occupy a confined space over an extended period of time. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted early on that it was hard to contract a “hot” dose of the virus by casual contact.

That brings me to the subject of masks. I have two nurses in my family, and I have had the privilege of being closely connected with the health care industry over many years. So, I understand and appreciate the need to mask up. But I have concerns about the long-term consequences of all this mask-wearing.

Without question, modern technology has served to separate us as human beings. Conversation within families has been replaced by television, iPads, and cell phones. Corporations are quick to direct us to their websites, where we can “do it ourselves.” I’m sorry, but a virtual “chat” just doesn’t do it for me.

And you can Zoom and Skype till the cows come home, but they are poor substitutes for real human interaction.

Now, right or wrong, we are being further separated by masking up. We Americans, and human beings in general, are prone to overdo almost everything.

There’s an old saying that goes like this ...

“What are the two lessons a cat learns when it sits down on a hot stove?”

Lesson one ... “Don’t sit down on a hot stove.”

Lesson two ... “Don’t sit down on a cold stove, either.”

I’m sorry, but when I see an individual driving alone in their automobile with a mask on, I am inclined to shake my head in disbelief. And when I see a college football coach, his face covered, running up and down the sidelines, I cannot help but be amused.

It gets worse. At the end of the game, the coach, with mask on, steps up to a microphone in the middle of the field, while the sports reporter stands, not six feet, but 10 yards away in full mask conducting the interview. And how about these news reporters who, in quarantine at home, wear a mask while reporting?

I have also noticed that people who wear masks have less tendency to make eye contact. It’s like, “If I look at you I might get the virus.” Heaven help us.

That brings me to the subject of smiles.

All this masking has contributed to eliminating the human smile from our culture. I find it utterly depressing.

Recently, I came across the following take on the importance of smiles. The author remains anonymous.

“A smile costs nothing, but gives much. It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory sometimes lasts forever. None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it. None is so poor but that he can be made rich by it. A smile creates happiness in a home, fosters good will in business, and is the countersign of friendship. It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and it is nature’s best antidote for trouble. Yet, it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give.”

A songwriter once coined the phrase, “The sunshine of your smile.” The next time you see someone whose eyes are downcast and who seems to be down and out, back up six feet, drop your mask, and flash your pearly whites. This world can use all the sunshine it can get.

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