I KNOW I’M NOT the only one thinking about a post-pandemic world here in my little corner of the Gate City.

We keep hearing the words “a sense of normalcy,” but can we really go back to “before?”

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I’m not sure.

Take, for instance, the face mask, everyone’s new lifestyle accessory.

The cloth covering has become a sign of solidarity with those around us during this public health emergency. But in the past, putting on a face mask meant you were ill, weak or had a disease.

There was a stigma to wearing one, and in some ways, the shame still exists in our country.

The other day, I was looking at a photograph in the New Hampshire Union Leader of two men at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Instead of concentrating on where they were, I was busy looking at their face masks and feeling sad that this is how it has to be.

I spoke to the manager of a very large, busy store on the Daniel Webster Highway recently, and he, too, doesn’t see a sense of normalcy returning soon. He dislikes wearing a face mask to greet patrons, but right now, most of us are trying to follow suit.

The pleasant weather is drawing more folks out and about as New Hampshire eases its coronavirus restrictions. But here in Nashua, there’s a new ordinance ruffling feathers. Is it local governmental overreach? Again, I’m not sure.

City residents are now required to wear face masks in many public settings until further notice. That also means that employees and customers at all businesses have to put on face masks.

Nashua, like Manchester, sits in Hillsborough County, considered a “COVID-19 hotspot,” but I’ve seen a number of men and women ignoring the mandate (punishable by a fine). No, I don’t believe that rulebreakers should be ostracized and run out the door. I like to think that Nashuans are better than that.

Nashua police are taking a sensible approach.

“The objective is not to punish, but to educate people so they understand the need to voluntarily comply and reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Capt. Craig Allard said at a briefing reported in the Union Leader last week. Issuing a summons would be the last resort.

Social distance-shaming and mask-shaming have no place in our city, and I pray we don’t see that. Some people can’t or shouldn’t wear a mask due to a variety of physical and/or mental health issues.

Or as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in 1936: “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”

Joan Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at jtania512@gmail.com.