Eschewing social media cacophony, I tend to comment on and offer qualified opinions from my wheelhouse of Middle Eastern political, historical, and religious intrigue. I’d like this once, however, to veer off my preferred topics and offer my $.02 on COVID-19 and masks, if you‘ll allow.    

We endure closed churches, shuttered businesses, maximum occupancy hospitals, virtual schooling, teleworking, limited travel, etc, while the privileged supposedly continue to enjoy their privileges. Things are really terrible now for us and will likely stay this way for months ahead. Yet in this context, wearing of the mask has somehow been equated with oppression by the political left.  

I don’t speak for the left. I hate the mask and feel like a fool every time I put it on. I don’t fear COVID-19, but perhaps others around me do. So I wear one. I don’t do it for me, I do it for you. It’s just that simple. It’s inconvenient for me, but not overbearing, so I wear it in public. My neighbors and the strangers I encounter warrant this courtesy.  

But for those who would take a stand on principle against wearing it, let me offer an account from Sunday School. You will recall the story of a Syrian army commander named Naaman who was considered a great man and a valiant soldier. He had leprosy, though. A nasty and contagious disease, just like COVID-19. 

General Naaman heard of a healer in the country of Israel, so, given his terminal diagnosis, he sought out a rather unorthodox Hebrew prophet named Elisha.  He took with him a very generous allotment of treasure as compensation for anticipated healing.    

He showed up at Elisha’s home riding his chariot pulled by horses, today’s Ford F-150 King Cab pickup truck-equivalent. Elisha refused to meet him. Instead, he sent his servant to tell the big man to go down to the Jordan river and wash himself seven times.  

I’ve been to the Jordan many times.  It’s not clean now, and probably wasn’t very clean during Naaman’s time. Naaman took umbrage and stood on principle, offended by one, being ignored; two, Elisha not making a big whoop-de-doo over the healing; and three, that he didn’t get the services to which he believed himself entitled. He peeled off in a rage, today’s Twitter, Facebook, and perhaps Parler-storm equivalent.

As Naaman hightailed it away from Elisha’s home, his servant asked him, “If Elisha had told you to do some great thing, you would have done it. Why not just do this simple task? It’s not that big of a deal [paraphrase, with emphasis]!”  

You know how this ends:  The big man swallows his pride and simply does what was best for him and his family, ironically, at very little inconvenience, making one wonder what all the fuss was about in the first place.  

Maybe this old Middle Eastern Sunday School lesson has some relevance for us today. Instead of debating our rights and liberties, perhaps we can show some consideration for those around us by simply wearing the silly masks. COVID-19 is contagious. So is kindness and courtesy.