Isn’t it odd how, when you can’t do something, you want to do something? Yesterday, for instance, I was simply aching to call our good buds Kim and Kevin and ask them to meet us at the Craft Beer Cellar. The funny thing is that I don’t really like beer. When we meet there, I hope for a good glass of wine, because even one beer makes me feel puffed up like a toad. And yet, I wanted to go to the Craft Beer Cellar. 

I assume this is like the fruit of the forbidden tree. Did Adam and Eve feel the same way? Did they even like apples?

I think this feeling comes from not liking to be told what to do – or what not to do. We spend much of our lives following rules. Our parents order us around, we get in line and be quiet when our teachers tell us, we sit in assigned seats, we turn in our homework on time, and we show up before the bell rings.

We all eventually appear for work on time, do what the boss says, take our lawfully scheduled breaks, and leave not one minute before 5 p.m. We try to eat healthy foods and get enough exercise (though many of us have problems with that, including me and my shrimp and cheese grits). We pay taxes to benefit society, and we drive close to the speed limit.

I can see that many people are ready to say, “Enough with all this! If I want to take a risk, I’m not hurting anyone but myself! I’m not staying in! I’m not wearing a mask! I’m going to do what I want!”

Yes, I can see that. But today, that point of view sounds a little different to my ears. Max is quarantining in the basement because he woke up with a fever and body aches. He now awaits the results of the COVID-19 test to see if maybe someone who didn’t stay home or wear a mask hurt him as he worked. Today, “I’m hurting only myself” rings hollow.

My business law class and I discussed this very issue a year or so ago. Obviously, we were not talking about a pandemic with stay-at-home rules. We were talking about wearing a seat belt. Some students admitted to not wearing one, and they offered the same reason: If I kill myself, I’m hurting only myself.

Being ever the devil’s advocate, I challenged that. I asked the students who would be hurt if they weren’t wearing a seat belt and were killed in an accident. Everyone was quiet initially, but then the answers started: My parents. My grandparents. My child. My spouse. Maybe the person in the other car. 

We talked about the cost to society. First responders must attend an accident. An ambulance – or two – must be called. Maybe the fire department or the county coroner will be involved. Lots of people who tend to our societal well-being will deal with one person’s decision not to wear a seat belt.

And then I asked who would be hurt if, instead of being killed, the non-seat-belt-wearing person was instead rendered quadriplegic or unconscious for a long period of time. We discussed the cost of public health care, which is enormous for people who need help for the rest of their lives.

Finally, I asked about the cost to insurance companies who had to pay claims or verdicts of a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Who pays for those things?

The class became more animated as they saw that their actions, even with something as simple as wearing a seat belt, had a much more distant reach than they had thought. I think most of them left class that day vowing to wear their seat belts from then on.

While today’s situation is not quite the same as that class discussion, people’s actions now are more far-reaching than most think. When does that hit home? When somebody you love is in the basement hoping for good news. I hope you don’t have to deal with it. Maybe wearing a mask or staying home for a little while longer is all right. Think about it.

 

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