Behind the facemask

Published by Barrie Voyce on

With the government announcement that from the 24th July face coverings will be compulsory in shops, I thought I’d start early, and put mine on and as is typical for me on a Thursday, I went to do my weekly food shopping. 

A few weeks ago my wife was experimenting with making her own out of old socks, and I had this mighty offering – obviously adorned with a bit of illuminate branding to make it more exciting.

I discovered a few things about wearing the mask:
1 – I was very self-conscious, some people were wearing masks, some were not, and no-one else had one made from a sock
2 – It was really warm, and it made my glasses steam up
3 – I found I was reluctant to talk to people, but super conscious that people couldn’t read my facial expression. I normally like to smile at people as much as possible, especially when I’m in the way.
4 – I actually found communication really hard. It wasn’t just talking to people, it felt like it other people were finding it hard to hear too. The till operator asked me a question, I wasn’t sure what she’d said the first time, and clearly she couldn’t interpret my muffled response. Three minutes later she asked me the same question. I spoke up this time, but it felt like I was shouting.

I was really pleased to get out and rip the mask off my face. I’m feeling anxious about going back again next week already.

My colleague Alistair had this experience on a video call this week:

Due to technical issues, I could see and hear everyone, but they could not see or hear me at all, they didn’t even know I was in the meeting. For a while it was great, being the fly on the wall. But then I was eavesdropping on someone else’s meeting and as time went on the feeling became a bit more sinister, when they were discussing things that I had a say in, and I realised I could not use my voice. I suddenly felt invisible, I was there but no one could see me and my voice was not being heard! That was the most uncomfortable experience and I really wanted to reach out and say “I am here listen to what I have to say!!” I even sent a text and that got talked about but no one talked to me!
It was only for a short time, only because of technical reasons and after we all joked about it. But it made me think of all of the young people and parents in situations where they feel they don’t have a voice and they feel invisible. At the end of the meeting the chair noticed that there were in fact 5 of us in the meeting and he realised I was there, that was strangely very relieving, I was no longer invisible, I existed. 

Both Alistair and I experienced, for a short time, something of what it feels like to not be able to communicate.

As Alistair reflects, so many young people and parents have this experience every day. I think about those without access to technology during lockdown, those with SEN which restrict them and the way they are viewed by others, those who are excluded due to poverty, and many, many others. It makes me think about how I am complicit in this – how easy it is to not communicate well, to stop listening to the voices of those who need to be heard.

But, just like Alistair found at the end, each of us is seen – by our Heavenly Father. He made us, He sees us, and He listens to us. 

Categories: Blog