The Shadow of Our Smiles

It started with the handshake: not a good idea. You can bump elbows, or knees or shoes.

Well, actually, better not get that close: how about six feet? Can you make sure you stay six feet away from anyone else? You can wave if you like.

Then again, better not even put yourself in situations where you might encounter other people: could you please stay at home? Yes, shelter in place, and make your sorties only for the most critical missions.

Unimaginable, but you've adapted to these new rules within just a couple of weeks. Home is where you need to stay. Plan your excursions very carefully: minimize time away, maximize efficiency, but most importantly, avoid getting close to other people. Oh and, by the way, when you do go out: make sure to cover the bottom half of your face. You're protecting others, you're doing the right thing.

In this thoughtful and responsible gesture, you've allowed the face mask to become the last nail in your coffin of solitude. You've lost your last chance of connecting to "the other"—touching another's heart with your smile, feeling your heart warmed, if only for a moment, by theirs'.

As I make eye contact with another "safe" person in the store I wonder: was that slight narrowing of her eyes accidental, or was that the shadow of a smile hiding behind her mask? How long must we continue living with shadows, depriving ourselves of the shining light, the most important thing we have—each other?

— Leon Segal, Ph.D.

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