So two Mondays ago, the French government dropped the mandatory mask wearing for students and teachers inside and outside of the school buildings. I have to admit that when I first heard this news I was both relieved and excited, and I could hardly sleep at all on the Sunday night before, thinking about seeing full faces and smiles for the first time in almost two years.
Even with my excited anticipation of that first morning, knowing that I might get a little emotional, I didn’t expect it to affect me as much as it did. As the kids started to turn the corner into the playground I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes, and when one little girl said, “Mr. Kerr, that’s what you look like!”, and another one said, “Mr. Kerr, I knew you would have a beautiful smile”, I started to cry just a little, and I couldn’t bring myself to stop for much of the day.
I think that for me, the hardest part of the pandemic has been not seeing people’s faces, and being such a smiley guy myself, I know how a simple smile can transform a person’s mood, day, and attitude in profound and lasting ways. Not having those smiles to feed off of has contributed enormously to the prevailing sense of isolation that communities are struggling with these days, and a big part of transitioning out of Covid will need to involve lots of face to face gatherings I think, with the specific and purposeful intent of reconnecting with people’s faces and smiles. The power of a smile is undeniable, and it has been an absolute gift over the past two weeks to get back to seeing a person’s smiley face, and in many ways, back to seeing a person’s true self.
Having said all that, I am acutely aware of the fact that the pandemic is probably far from over, and that Covid is still circulating rapidly in France. I am also aware that people have varying levels of anxiety and trepidation regarding mask wearing, and that of course is to be expected and respected. It may even be that at some point we need to go back to wearing masks in schools for another stretch of time, and even though that would be hard for many of us, safety still needs to be our priority. At this point however, I am enthusiastically accepting the beautiful little gift that each and every soul-feeding smile is bringing to my days, and I hope you are too 🙂
When this is all over, and we reflect back on how we have been impacted by the pandemic, I think it is fair to say that the absence of face to face smiles has been one of the most difficult experiences that our world has had to navigate. Maybe though, in the not so distant future, when we emerge from this better and much stronger, we will commit to going out of our way to truly connect with each other more and more and more…face to face.
We will put our phones down a lot more often, and choose to connect in person with one another instead of through social media and email and text, which is mainly, and sadly, our current and learned default these days. Nothing beats the power of a smile, and over the past couple of weeks these smiles have never burned so bright! Here’s hoping it is something that lasts, because I have just finally stopped crying everytime I see a beautiful little face with a toothless grin. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
A smile remains the most inexpensive gift you can bestow on anyone, and yet its powers can vanquish kingdoms kingdoms – OG Mandino
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