Behind the Mask by
(165 Stories)

Prompted By Hello Darkness

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Like all families,  ours at times has been an unwilling friend to darkness.   A medical officer in WW II,  my dad served on troop ships bringing soldiers to theaters of war and returning with the wounded and the dead,  and on a Stateside army base during those dark days I was born.

And over the years there’ve been tragic illnesses,  accidents and untimely deaths in our family.   My sister succumbed to a debilitating disease and my nephew struggles with severe autism.

And we’ve all been heir to the lesser,  surmountable tragedies as well  – disappointments, ill-fated affairs of the heart,  family feuds,  broken friendships,  and all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that at times have made our lives seem so dark.  Yet the past months have surely been the darkest for us all.

Recently at a pharmacy I thanked the cashier as she bagged my purchases and she replied so warmly I was touched and wanted her to know.

“I’m smiling at you,”   I told her,  “but of course you can’t see it behind my mask.”

“Oh yes I can,”  she said,  “I can see it in your eyes.”

Ah,  the kindness of strangers and a ray of sunlight amid the gloom.

Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Pandemic


  1. John Shutkin says:

    What a delightfully uplifting story, Dana, particularly in this time of pandemic darkness. You are so right about the “ray of sunlight” caused by the kindness of strangers (as we also alluded to in the recent prompt on random acts of kindness).

    And so nice that the cashier could tell you were smiling. Ironically, as I have had more frowns than smiles behind my own mask these days — mainly at maskless others — I’ve wondered if any of them could tell how disapproving my expression was towards them. Maybe they could. I guess that is also a good thing, though it could also end up with me getting punched in my (masked) face.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    You are right, Dana. We have all known some form of darkness in our lives. But in these dark times, any act of kindness is much appreciated, even smiling under a mask – which can be detected by the crinkle at the eye! Lovely story.

  3. Dana, I love the way your story carried us from the cold, dark hours of war and death through the “lesser, surmountable tragedies” — what a fine phrase! — to the simple warmth of a smile. Isn’t it great that our eyes smile, too?!

  4. A little Shakespeare and a wee bit of Celtic/Irish rhythm, you’ve captured the darkness and the light, the coldness and the hope.

  5. Marian says:

    Eyes definitely can smile, Dana, and the small acts are so important now. You conveyed this beautifully, even through a mask!

  6. Suzy says:

    Wonderful story, Dana. I love that you work in “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” as part of your description of the various things that have made our lives seem dark. And such a lovely exchange between you and the pharmacy cashier. A ray of sunlight amid the gloom.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    This is a beautiful story, Dana. We all have had much darkness in our lives, but if we can keep smiling behind our masks, perhaps it will give us the strength to get through this.

  8. Joe Lowry says:

    It is nice that among all the darkness, you were able to see the uplifting eyes of the pharmacy cashier. Little acts of kindness add a lot to these dark times.

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