Once upon a time, a man was given the opportunity to pay a visit to both Heaven and Hell, accompanied by a guide.
Upon arriving in Hell, he was amazed to see a long table laden with a banquet of every delicious food imaginable. But rather than enjoying the food, the residents of Hell were arguing, complaining, crying. It was then that he realized the only utensils available to the would-be diners were spoons so long that it was impossible for anyone to eat with them. The condemned were doomed to suffer an eternity of longing for food they were unable to eat.
Next his guide led the man to Heaven, where he was surprised to see a nearly identical scene–the delectable banquet, the extra-long spoons. But instead of the wailing and gnashing of teeth he had witnessed in Hell, he saw that the inhabitants of Heaven were smiling, talking with one another, even laughing–and EATING. The difference? In Heaven, everyone was using their long spoons to feed their neighbors on the opposite side of the table.
I read this story over 40 years ago in one of my grandmother’s old Readers Digests, but I’ve never forgotten it and have often repeated it. And it rose into my mind abruptly this week when I read a local reporter’s account of the failure of most people to wear the masks that have been recommended while in public as long as pandemic conditions continue.
Every day I read online diatribes from those who refuse to wear masks because this is America or because they are so uncomfortable or because they don’t like being forced to do anything or even because no one should tell them what to do with their own bodies. Do I even need to tell you how ridiculous it sounds when professed pro-life Christians go around saying such things?
Here’s the real reason people aren’t wearing masks: mask-wearing has a negligible protective effect upon the wearer. What masks do well, though, is prevent a potentially ill wearer from spreading germs to others. I wear a mask to protect you, and you wear one to protect me. Some especially vulnerable folks–like my friend’s medically fragile son–have difficulty wearing masks and are especially counting on the goodwill and compliance of the rest of us.
The freedom and individualism prized by Americans diametrically oppose the idea of being required to do something that only benefits others, not themselves. However, some 75% of Americans claim to be Christians and should therefore be ready to love their vulnerable neighbor by wearing masks even if it were not required.
Instead, it would appear that we Americans are a selfish bunch doomed to a Hell of our own making.