By Fr. Louis Studer, OMI, Provincial, U.S. Oblate Province
I postponed getting my hair cut for several months as the reality of the Covid pandemic continued to worsen. I couldn’t help notice that the Oblates with whom I was living were doing the same as their hair got longer and longer.
Fr. Ray Lebrun, OMI suggested to me that I go to his barber, a petite Vietnamese woman close to the Oblate residence in Washington, DC. Ray assured me that she was very experienced in her profession. I made an appointment the following day but was fearful: would she take proper precautions?
I put on my heavy mask as I was getting out of the car in front of her small shop. She greeted me warmly, aware I was her Oblate priest appointment. She had on a mask and a plastic shield and asked me to wash my hands with soap and water in the corner sink. She promptly told me she had just washed her hands as she does before each appointment.
As she started cutting my hair, I began a conversation with her, seeing pictures of her children and husband on the shelf in front of me. After a couple of questions she gently said, “Father, we can talk later, it’s best we don’t have conversation when we are so close to each other.”
My focus and concern had been completely about myself and whether I might get the virus from her. Her concern, all along, had been about not giving me the virus, or any of her other customers.
As I got back in my car, I was embarrassed about my selfish concern, never thinking about possibly giving the virus to her, only that her carelessness, which was unfounded, might mean I would get sick.
While our own health and safety certainly means we must take precautions, this pandemic also invites us, at the same time, to do all we can to help ensure the safety and health of those with whom we come in contact.
This virus has made me aware, on a continuous daily basis, about the necessity and importance of doing our best to help our neighbor to be healthy and safe, even as we try to do the same for ourselves.