You can’t see my smile. You may not hear my muffled, “Hi!” But you can easily read my eyes, and the meaning behind the mask I wear. 

Less than a month ago, however, I was not nearly so compliant. In fact, I thought the COVID-19 endeavor was an overreaction of a bunch of idiots.

On March 11, the day the World Health Organization classified the spread of the virus as a pandemic, I was in Texas on a business trip. Across the US, schools, restaurants, and public events were being closed and cancelled. I viewed all of this through a lens of selfishness.

What if I couldn’t get home? How would my children make money? Why couldn’t I eat at a restaurant? If I wanted to risk getting this illness, whose business was it but mine?

I flew home on March 15, on a packed flight. I was excited to have dinner plans with my son and daughter-in-law in two days. Due to extensive travel, I had not seen them since January. I couldn’t wait to see the baby bump of my first grandchild, hug my kids, find out what they’d been up to.

Then it all got real for me. What if I brought the virus into their home? What if my pregnant daughter-in-law, who has asthma, got sick? How would I live with myself if there were any chance that I caused it? We had a video chat instead, and I still have not seen them in person.

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There are lots of things about the environment in which we operate now that make no sense to me. Sometimes, I do feel like this is all futile. But this is how our government, among many, is handling this, based on the advice of some very smart scientists. Each of us needs to realize, if we are not part of this solution, we are a part of the problem. This won’t work if we don’t all participate responsibly.

This quote struck me full force yesterday:

 “On the front end of a pandemic, you look a little bit like an alarmist. You look a little bit like a Chicken Little. ‘The sky is falling.’ And on the back end of a pandemic, you didn’t do enough.” 

— Amy Acton, Director of Public Health in Ohio, as quoted by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press 4/5/20.

I suddenly understood, the government is not taking away my rights by making restrictions. It is keeping me from taking away the rights of others. People who might have an underlying health concern, or an elderly parent, or a partner undergoing chemotherapy, or even a child with Juvenile Diabetes. And I certainly did not want to do less than I could.

When you don’t wear a mask in public, you are saying, “I don’t care how my actions affect anyone but me. You and your loved ones’ lives are meaningless to me.”

When you look into my eyes, peering at you above my mask, I want you to know what they are communicating. They are saying, “I care about you. I respect your right to live and protect your loved ones. I want this to be over as soon as possible.”

This is a long and hard battle we are fighting, but it will be longer and harder if we can’t fight it together.  Thank you for doing your part.

Laurie Freedle is the author of  “My Lucky Stroke: One Woman’s Journey to Manifesting an Ideal Life.” She lives in Denver.