Published in the Rains County Leader on August 11, 2020:
During this time of pandemic, social distancing and isolation, the slogan “We’re in this together” has become popular on the news and social media. Many YouTube personalities use it as a tag line to end their videos. However, after seeing people in action, I wonder if we really understand what being in something together really means.
One example of why I wonder happened recently at the gym where David and I work out regularly. Before you begin to compose your critique of our workout habits, let me say that the Anytime Fitness in Emory is probably safer than my home. The 6,000 square foot facility allows plenty of space for the machines to be placed at an acceptable social distance from each other. Containers of disinfecting wipes and spray bottles of disinfectant are placed throughout the gym, and clients are required to wipe down machines before and after each use. In addition, the manager Kim is constantly vacuuming and wiping down anything that doesn’t move – so don’t rest too long between sets. And finally, at the time David and I work out, there are usually between two and six other patrons there.
Among those patrons are two men who work out together, alternately pumping iron and encouraging and spotting for each other. They use the free weights while I stick with the machines on the other end of the building, but I sometimes face in their direction, and watching them takes my mind off my own pain. On the day of my example, they were pressing dumbbells of a size I wouldn’t be able to lift with both hands. Man #1 lay down on the bench and begin to work while man #2 stood at the head of the bench. The headphones of #1 slipped into an uncomfortable position and #2 stepped up and repositioned them without disrupting the flow of the repetitions. As #1 reached the limit of his strength, his arm muscles began to quiver a bit and his speed slowed as he struggled. On the last repetition, he stopped halfway, unable to complete the lift. But #2 stepped up and placed the tips of his index fingers under #1’s elbows and applied just enough pressure to get #1 past the hard spot and allow him to finish.
I smiled as I watched this example of working together, and I looked forward to seeing the interaction when #2 took the bench. Let’s just say I was underwhelmed. As soon as #1 stood up, he grabbed his cell phone and stared at the little screen the entire time #2 went through his presses. In it together? Maybe not.
Another example is further away geographically but closer emotionally. My son and his family live in Granbury – a five hour round trip – so we don’t see them very often, especially since COVID. But Christian and I text regularly, and we recently had a conversation about people we know who have been infected. He told about a couple who invited them to dinner and then tested positive the next day. Thankfully, he had declined the invitation. The heartbreaking part about the situation is that the couple had recently returned from a trip to Mexico and had opted not to quarantine for the suggested fourteen-day period.
Another popular subject on social media, the afternoon talk shows, and the evening news is “my rights.” Some people seem to think that the Constitution grants them the right to do whatever they want to do. But as my brother used to say, my right to swing my arm stops at the end of the other person’s nose. And being in this together may require you to give up some of the things you want to do for the good of someone else.
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