“I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” — but not everything is constructive.– 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)
A year ago, before the pandemic, I used to go to our local rec center almost every day. I would swim in the pool, use it as the starting point for many of my runs, and utilize the treadmill on days when the weather prevented me from running outside.
The activity I loved most, however, was Body Pump class. I missed these classes when gyms shut down last spring.
I didn’t return to the rec center immediately upon its reopening this summer. I was wary. As cases declined, though, I became curious. Could I safely attend classes?
When I finally returned to Body Pump, I was pleasantly surprised. Socially distanced spaces for Pumpers were outlined in tape on the classroom floor. Class sizes were small, and the equipment was wiped down with disinfectant before and after each session. Bottles of hand sanitizer could be found throughout the room. Students and instructors wore masks.
Unfortunately, we do become complacent.
Last month, in one class, I noticed a student who disregarded the instructor’s admonition to wear a mask. The rest of the students (including me) moved their benches away from the maskless one, effectively isolating her.
During the next class, however, her friend also did not wear a mask.
I understand not wanting to wear a mask. In Body Pump class, strength training is combined with aerobic moves. Your heart rate increases, and you breathe hard. Wearing a mask can be uncomfortable.
We do it to protect each other, though. We do it out of consideration.
In the next class, almost half of the class did not wear masks. One person gave permission to many others to rebel against the mask-wearing edict.
Here are my three cents (because I have three thoughts) on the subject of freedom and mask-wearing.
- In “On Liberty” John Stuart Mill wrote that freedom means “doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow, without impediment from our fellow creatures, as long as what we do does not harm them even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse or wrong.”
Yes, we can be foolish, perverse, or wrong as long as we do no harm to others. Freedom does not include the ability to get someone else sick by passing along the virus, even unknowingly.
The person who gets the virus from you not wearing a mask isn’t free. You have taken their freedom away.
- The flip side of freedom is responsibility. We can’t have one without the other. Even if you are not afraid of the virus yourself, that does not give you the right to expose others.
Everyone has the responsibility to protect their community. Your co-worker, your neighbor, your grocer, your hairdresser, your doctor all have the right to freedom too.
You are your brother’s keeper.
- The thing about freedom is that we get to choose. We get to choose every single day, time after time to act wisely.
We get to choose compassion over capriciousness. We get to choose duty over irresponsibility, maturity over recklessness, and love over indifference.
Freedom means choices.
Make the right one.
I chose to write an email to the director of the rec center. It was not an angry email. I did point out that it would be in the best interests of everyone to keep the members healthy and the rec center open by enforcing masking and social distancing guidelines.
In response, she instructed the employee at the front desk to not allow members to enter unless they were wearing a mask. She wrote a new announcement concerning mask requirements that instructors now read before each class.
Best of all, she had signs made and put up that reminded members that the first C in LCC (the acronym for Lititz Community Center) stands for Community. And in a community, we take care of one another.
The reminders are working.
As Mavis Staples sings, “What good is freedom if you haven’t learned to be free?“
*Update: since writing this post, the Lititz Community Center has temporarily closed due to COVID.
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