The only real tradition I have established in six years as a columnist is an annual piece that coincides with Holy Week.
Maybe my all-time favorite column remains the one I wrote about Maundy Thursday and Christ’s commandment to “love one another.”
This year, when I thought about writing it struck me that I have not been in my church for over a year. While I still attend virtually via video connection — and, there is something to be said for sipping coffee as “communion” while wearing sweatpants — it remains difficult to feel fully connected to my faith.
For the second year in a row, I will miss my favorite ceremonial practice, the foot washing ceremony that commemorates the Last Supper. Given the option, I would miss Christmas and Easter services before I would miss Maundy Thursday.
Unfortunately, I will miss all three this year.
But thinking about it gave me a new direction this year. Foot-washing is a simple and selfless act. And when I reflect on a terrible year, I realized how easy it would be to miss all the simple and selfless acts that happen around us every day.
For example, for a year most people have worn masks as much to protect others as themselves. Not because of some government regulation — I think the anti-maskers are a small, vocal minority — or out of fear for personal health. The driving societal force has been a voluntary desire to protect family, friends and perfect strangers.
Mask wearing is an act of love.
Just like foot-washing, it is simple yet deceptively soulful. Both are acts of service and self-subordination to others. And both are metaphorical substitutes for something much larger. In a year consumed by a dark encroaching terror, the most common source of light has been the simple everyday action of people wearing a mask.
But masks haven’t been the only symbol for the spread of love across our state and country.
The last gasps of a dying man gave voice to a movement that promises to change centuries of injustice. Masses of people across the country coming together in numbers previously unimagined to demand justice and equity, not just for themselves, but for neighbors, communities and future generations, represent a swell of individual, selfless acts aggregated together.
Peaceful protests are an act of love.
Just this past week, Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley rushed into a grocery store and placed himself between a mass murderer and more potential victims. The simple act of doing his job, even in the face of extreme danger and terrible evil, cost the father of seven his life.
Among the first police officers on the scene, Talley could have waited for a help as a monster searched for more people to kill. Instead, he sacrificed himself so that others would be spared.
Sometimes just doing your job is an act of love.
It has been a long, difficult year for our communities and for ourselves. It would be easy to get caught up in the scars and pain caused by repeated traumas, seemingly stacking upon each other and piling up on each of us. Too often it seems like there just isn’t an escape.
That is when any act of love is most important. That is why the acts of love we have seen over the past year, no matter how small or simple, have meant so much to me and others.
Just seeing these simple, selfless acts is restorative. Plenty of us have loved one another over the past year, time and again, just as we were taught.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq