On the bus ride home this evening my daughter saw a young Asian woman wearing a medical mask. She asked me, “Apu, why is that person wearing a mask?”

I told her, “That person is trying to keep herself healthy and other people healthy.,” but that answer felt lacking.

What I realized I wanted to tell her is that person was wearing a mask to be kind to other people. (I presume by attempting to assuage panicky people tempted by a stereotype of a COVID-19 carrier.) But I haven’t come up for a reason why wearing the mask is kind without implying the one wearing it is sick, or suggesting we should be suspicious of anyone wearing a mask.

She’s a smart kid, so I know a question to that effect would likely be coming. I owe her, and the kind stranger, the right answer.