Looking me straight in the eye, my friend Mary told me she was not sure how she would trust again once the Covid-19 pandemic ends. Puzzled, I asked Mary what she meant. What did trust have to do with anything? I just wanted the pandemic to end. Not waiting for her answer, I switched topics. I did not understand that trust and food allergy would soon become larger than life for me.
As the pandemic unfolded in mid-2020, I felt snug and safe at home with my family. My son had returned from college, and we had plenty of room to roam on our acre of land in Nevada. We were a family of four living in our little world with physically distanced interaction with a limited number of friends.
I became slightly more anxious as the pandemic wore on. But by the time December 2020 rolled around, a regular level of anxiety had taken up residence in my life. As an extrovert, engaging with people is my lifeline. My motto is: there are no strangers, only friends I have not met yet. But this underlying sense of unease confused me. Was it really anxiety, just unidentified worry brought on by isolation and fear of the virus – or was it something else?
Reports of people hosting parties and attending large gatherings were unsettling – as the Covid-19 cases continued to grow. Sneaking a few moments on social media also brought flashes of stress. Sure, some of it related to political and social unrest, but then there was the COVID-19 rulebreaking.
It was upsetting to discover photos of friends participating in high-risk social activities, the same friends who told us they were taking the required precautions, and staying home. These were people we interacted with. It felt like people I’d trusted were no longer trustworthy.
Photos That Broke My Trust
That hit me like a ton of bricks: I realized I was grappling with trust – more than anxiety. Suddenly, I got Mary’s point. I tried rationalizing that we all have different interpretations of what are safe practices. But I couldn’t reconcile that with the facts – we all have access to the CDC guidelines and the recommendations from our health departments. Just as science guides those of us practicing food allergy management, surely it had to guide preventing COVID-19, a potentially deadly virus.
Before anyone here had had their vaccine shots, a close family friend was supposed to come by for an outdoor visit. But yet there he was in a social media post, clear as day, grinning from ear to ear with two others during a hike. Yes, they were outdoors, but they were sitting close to each other, masks down. This was no one’s idea of social distancing.
I value authenticity and people saying, “Hey, let’s cancel our visit since I just traveled through an airport,” or “I hung out with people I don’t live with, catch you in two weeks”. A text message later, the young friend agreed to skip the upcoming visit.
Truth be known, I was heartbroken. I always trusted this person’s around my son Cyrus’s food allergies and asthma. He’s well aware of my daughter Leila’s multiple allergies, too. I felt that our pal was trustworthy with avoiding allergen exposures. Never once did I question his actions in support of my family’s allergy safety.
Yet, on that day, I felt betrayed. How could someone I had trusted for years not be honest about their choices during a pandemic? One that was hurting people we both knew. I had to step back and noodle that one through.
Don’t Give Up Trust Too Easily
Food allergy relationships are based on the old statement of, “I trust you with my life.” When someone cooks for a person with food allergies, this is possibly one of the most profound acts of trust, and in some situations, of love and kindness for another human. Taking the time to read labels, ask questions, and even send text messages with photos of food labels from the grocery store are acts that have helped me to trust others.
When our young friend posted in social media, my trust was shattered. I had to wonder: if he could not be honest about the pandemic, what did that say about his integrity and food allergies?
But in the end, it was me who learned a lesson. I was wrong to rush to judge and to forfeit my hard-won trust so easily. The young friend would show me that trust is not about making good decisions every single time. Trust is about being open and having honest discussion. Being human and imperfect, and owning up to that.
Honest conversations with our friend pursued, and magic unfolded. Unconditional love and authentic words were exchanged; there was listening and finding solutions for socializing during a health crisis. Soon after that, our friend took touching and thoughtful action for my family. Before he left town, he isolated for seven days – just so he could come by and hang out with our family to bid farewell.
Trust is not built purely on action, I discovered. It is built on open, honest relationships and that allow for listening, learning, and even admissions of mistakes or doubts.
I had believed that if people took the right actions, like food label reading, they were trustworthy. But there is more to trust. It is about the intention behind the action. In my food allergy world, the intention is the desire to keep people safe. But to do so, we have to provide room for frank discussion and perhaps a person saying, “You know, I really do not feel safe cooking for your family.” Honesty is so vital to food allergy management.
As our world continues to open back up, so does my hope for fresh, new trust in my relationships.
Caroline Moassessi is the founder of GratefulFoodie.com and a regular contributor to Allergic Living.