A loved elder suffers a long death of emphysema and lung cancer, brought on by years of smoking; a pre-schooler shoots and kills a sibling with a handgun found in their parents’ home; and a teenager kills himself and his friends as a result of driving while taking a phone call — none of them were wearing seatbelts.
When events such as this happen, we want to know why. They are, of course, accidents, in the sense that no one intended them to happen, but, on the other hand, they cannot be completely unexpected. We can point to an event or sequence of events that led to these predictable outcomes.
These things happen, and they happen with terrible frequency. So often, in fact, that a considerable amount of the tragedy in our lives is the result of such carelessness or misjudgments. The number of people killed or injured in such circumstances far outnumbers those who are the victims of deliberate malice.
But human nature being what it is, we focus on the incidents where we can place the blame on someone who is not also the victim. We talk about gun control, emigration issues, mental health care, and national security. We stockpile food, water, arms and ammunition in an attempt to keep ourselves and our families safe. We pretend that if we could just avoid the “bad guys,” keep them locked up or out of the country, we would have nothing to worry about.
But the truth is, we are our own worst enemy. We do not do the simple, reasonable things that are under our control that would improve our safety and quality of life. We know that a healthy lifestyle, avoidance of drugs, alcohol and tobacco and driving safely are proven defenses against danger. We also know that the strongest influence on our children’s behavior is the example we set for them.
We have it within ourselves to vastly improve our lives and the lives of our families. Instead of expecting Congress, the FBI or the Highway Patrol to take care of us, let us take on the responsibility of taking care of ourselves, changing our bad habits for good, and enjoying the life that is available to us.
Mary Ann Bedwell