What Good Is Freedom?

“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.

You can find the places I link up here.

73 comments

    • I agree, Jeff. I have started speaking up. I asked a Mennonite woman at a farm stand we frequent why she didn’t wear a mask. I told her I wear one because I respect and care for her. She didn’t have a reply. It is really not hard.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Amen sister…. it’s all true and will make some angry because they do not care to take care of the group. I know life is better when you do what is right, and what helps others

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good for you for speaking up, Laurie. It probably wasn’t easy.

    I do feel that often when we’re in groups it’s just so easy to let our guard down or become complacent. At least there’s hope on the horizon that we are beginning to see the beginning of the end!

    Too many seem to want to ignore the social contract that comes with freedom. I’m glad you can continue to take Body Pump & feel safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Judy. I was a little bit surprised and pleased at the positive reaction I got from the staff at the rec center. The rec is now closed due to COVID (our state issued another shut down). I probably won’t go back until I get the vaccine.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the way you handled this, Laurie. Writing a friendly letter was a great idea and the LCC managed it well.
    What surprises me is that so many people went along with the maskless one. It doesn’t take much for humans to become complacent and careless.
    They should read your blog more often!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The employees of the community center are my friends. I didn’t want to make enemies but I did want to get my point across. It was a tightrope! Ha! I think they should read my blog too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Body Pump. Couldn’t do it in a mask though so I wouldn’t attend and put others at risk. I miss going to the gym. Haven’t been even though mine reopened. I actually cancelled my membership and prefer working out at home where it’s safer. Gyms are one of the filthiest places on the planet. Can’t take any chances with Rona. I wish more of us believed we really are our brother and sisters keeper. The world would be a much better place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I never realized how difficult it would be to do Body Pump in a mask. It’s hard! But if I can do it, I will. I am thinking about putting my membership on hold too.

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  5. “The person who gets the virus from you not wearing a mask isn’t free. You have taken their freedom away.” Perfectly said, Laurie! And how wonderful that your email made a difference, at least while the rec center was still open. Who knows–you may have saved someone’s life.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. People got over-confident and careless everywhere, not just at your Community Center. It will be awhile before we beat this thing, even with the vaccine. Hard for all of us. But easier if we think of it as you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember back in the ’90’s California enacted their requirement for a helmet to ride a motorcycle and several stars protested loudly. One rode w/o heltmet, had a wreck, and to to this day doesn’t sound coherent when he speaks. Of course nurses call motorcycles “donor mobiles”.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh no. I’m sorry this happened. It sounds like no surprise the community center closed given the selfishness (because that’s ultimately what it is) of the people who didn’t want to wear a mask. Unfortunately it’s everyone who has to pay for the selfishness of others, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We have the freedom to make the selfless choice. The pandemic has truly revealed our hearts for one another!

    God bless. Hope you’ll be abe to return to the gym soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Freedom does mean choices and responsibility and caring for others. Sometimes we forget that. As I small child I wanted to grow up and have the freedom to do what ever I wanted. But freedom is not doing what ever I want. Adults still have to keep laws and make good choices. Freedom often comes with more responsibility than when we were young and had less freedom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We do tend to forget. But we all need reminders at times to do the right thing. I can remember feeling the same way when I was a child. I didn’t realize then what I know now – freedom comes with responsibility.

      Like

  11. Yet more proof that we really do need clear rules, clearly expressed, and judiciously reinforced — especially when the goal is to institute a new, necessary, but not necessarily convenient behavior. As for me, I really have to tamp down my anger when someone flaunts their maskless face in public. I can kind of cut kids between ages of three and twelve some slack . . . but then I get all judgy about their parents. I realize this doesn’t change anything. Working on it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, yes! We do need a uniform set of rules. In our state, restaurants have been shut down again but several restaurants in my area are flaunting the shut-down. I am sympathetic, but I hope they receive sanctions. Businesses (and people) who are not following the rules must not be rewarded. I tend to get judgy too.

      Like

  12. Honestly – people make me so angry with their selfish ways, or maybe rebellious ways is the better way to term it. It is so easy to slip the mask on. I see it here all the time and it annoys me to no end Laurie. I wish you had written the letter when the first women did not “mask up” … it is a moot point now as your gyms and exercise studios are now closed, but I will likely continuing wearing the mask in public places for a while after the vaccines have been distributed to everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It IS selfish, isn’t it, Linda? I even get annoyed now when I see people in stores with their noses sticking out over their masks. It’s not that hard! I wish I had written the letter earlier too but I did get to enjoy 2 classes with everyone masked up after I wrote the letter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hate seeing that too – I see it all the time and I figure they are just trying to get someone to say something and they’ll say “I’m wearing my mask!” We have a new order re: restrictions effective today and restaurants/bars stay closed for inside dining and now Preschool through High School can return to school Monday (why not wait until after the New Year?) So, she is allowing movie theatres to open but no concession stand. The theatre owners say they might as well stay closed as who is going to buy popcorn on the way out?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Many of the Amish and Mennonite people around here wear their masks that way (if they wear masks at all). Our movie theaters have been closed for a long time. Maybe since March.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That surprises me about the mask-wearing and that the Amish and Mennnites “buck the system” unless it is for religious reasons. That’s interesting Laurie. They finally opened our movie theaters in October but at a percentage capacity and only sitting close to one another if you were from the same family. The “no-concessions rule” is being contested by a few move theater owners.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I believe the Amish feel as though they trust in God to take care of them. It doesn’t make sense, since you are not taking care of yourself when you wear a mask – you are taking care of others.

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      • I never thought of it that way Laurie – thanks for that perspective as I could not see the Amish being rebellious in any way. It would be prudent to mask up anyway. The stats are just too horrifying.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. First, I am sorry to hear about your husband’s uncle. It is very sad and frustrating that wearing a mask has become such a divisive issue. Interesting how quickly the numbers in the gym went up, from one person wearing a mask to multiple people not wearing them. Good post and timely.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Good for you. It was smart to complain.

    I can’t understand when people ignore the rules.

    Our gyms I hear are pretty safe but I don’t have a membership.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our gyms are closed again at least until the new year. I don’t like it when people who follow the rules are penalized or people think they just need to follow the rules they agree with. I was happy with my gym’s response to my email.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Laurie, thank you for writing this post. Truly this was an answer to prayer for me and confirmed recent decisions. Every point well said. May we make wise choices this year so that next year we all will be here together.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. As a body pump instructor I hear ya! When our gym first reopened this summer we had X on our group fitness room and limited capacity. We were fortunate that once we got to our spot we were allowed to take off our mask. Fast forward to a week before Thanksgiving we had to wear our masks throughout our whole workout. A week after that we were told our gym is closed until the beginning of the year. Let’s hope 2021 becomes a better gym atmosphere than this yr.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. The “freedom” argument against wearing masks irks me to no end. People don’t have the right to endanger others regardless of what they believe. The same people arguing that businesses should be allowed to stay open are the same ones not following the rules that would allow things to stay open!

    Props to you for speaking up and to your rec center for taking positive action!

    With the new restrictions the next winter series race, the John Rudy 5 miler, as well as the Indian Rock 10k scheduled later in January have been postponed until March in hopes we’ll no longer be under the 50 people limit for outside gatherings. I’m very grateful the race I helped with got to be held and that I signed up for the virtual series instead this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You hit the nail on the head, Tracy – “The same people arguing that businesses should be allowed to stay open are the same ones not following the rules that would allow things to stay open”. Bingo!

      I was happy with my rec center’s response to my email. Now if only the gyms weren’t closed! I understand completely why they had to close, though.

      Good luck with the rest of your virtual York Series.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. How wonderful that the director was so responsive. What a fabulous day it will be when we can throw away our masks. We should celebrate with parties, parades, and other big gatherings–make it a holiday!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I get so frustrated with people who rant against masks on Facebook. My basic proof that they help is the medical staff who wear them all the time at work, plus videos I’ve seen showing that they do hinder the spread of our water droplets. My husband has spoken to managers of grocery stores a few times because not all their employees wore masks. The county has made it mandatory now. Yet restaurants and such are still packed. If we only realized, as you said, that insisting on our freedom takes away someone else’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I share your frustration, Barbara. I have had to distance myself from Facebook and the negativity it sometimes engenders. It is mandatory in our state to wear a mask in stores, but not everyone follows that order. Restaurants are now closed except for take-out. I think we bring on some of the restrictions ourselves by not following common-sense rules to limit the spread.

      Liked by 1 person

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