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Supervisor's Corner: Mask Distribution Event Shows the Greatness of Webster

By Webster Town Supervisor Tom Flaherty

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A smile can change your attitude for the better. Whether you are the one smiling or someone smiles at you, a stressful situation can be disarmed with a simple smile.


One of the unfortunate by-products of all of us wearing facial masks due to COVID-19 is that these smiles can’t be seen. In such, an already stressful time for all of us is robbed of one of the simplest but most effective ways to “calm nerves” and connect as people.


On Saturday, May 9 at the Webster Town Courthouse, 60,000 FREE masks were distributed out to Webster citizens. Town employees and elected officials manned the event that brought almost 5,000 cars through the distribution lines between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. By the time you are reading this article, another similar distribution event would have occurred on Wednesday, May 13 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the town courthouse.


The Saturday, May 9 distribution event was one of the most unique experiences I have ever seen. The full spectrum of human nature was on display. The volunteers acted quickly and in an incredible team-oriented fashion to adapt traffic patterns when it was seen that we were going to be handling much more cars than anticipated. All of this while withstanding blizzard-like conditions at times! However, the interaction we volunteers had with the people in the cars was what struck me the most and what I will remember. Oh sure, you had the negative side on human nature on display such as people complaining about being shorted one mask, or the masks being wet from the snow, etc. But the far majority of people were extremely grateful for us giving them free masks and doing it under less than ideal weather conditions.


Some of these people did not have masks on in their cars, so I could see their smiles. Those smiles energized me to forge on as I was getting fatigued. As I was wearing a mask, I wanted them to see my smile, but initially was challenged to figure out how to convey it through the mask. About an hour into the event, a couple most likely in their 80s came through the line with masks on and said thank you, and both at the same time “gave a double thumbs up gesture” to me. Yup... all four of their hands thumbs up in concert! That was all it took. They showed me how I could smile at people while having a mask on. The rest of the event, when I gave that thumbs up gesture, I got smiles from people in cars not wearing masks, and for the people wearing masks, often got a return thumbs up!


We’re two months into this COVID-19 situation. I think we all know we will not magically return to life as we knew it anytime soon. We’ll open back up in phases, and foundational to that opening up will be us wearing facial masks. Let’s try to keep our connection as people and respect that all of us are experiencing unprecedented stresses. If we can’t smile at each other to reduce that stress, maybe a thumbs up to each other will be a reasonable facsimile for the time being. We’ll get through this!


As always, if you want to reach me, please call (585) 872-7068 or e-mail me at tflaherty@ci.webster.ny.us.

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