Freedom means having the power to act, speak or think the way you want.
Kindness means warmly accepting that others have the freedom to disagree with you.
As Ohio reopens over the coming weeks after the coronavirus pandemic shut us down, we urge people to enjoy both freedom and kindness.
More bluntly, don’t be a jerk.
We’ve heard too many stories about people yelling at employees of stores and restaurants as we resume some semblance of normalcy. We’ve seen too many people give other customers a hard time over their choices, particularly over wearing face coverings.
Whichever side you’re on, the reality is Ohio mandates face coverings for employees of businesses and doesn’t require them for customers. The state does recommend the masks for customers too, and individual business owners can decide if they want to require masks or not.
We understand that plenty of Ohioans are frustrated about how the global pandemic affected our daily lives, our economy and our psyches. The bulk of us want things back the way they were three months ago.
No amount of yelling, berating or eye-rolling will accomplish that.
Most of the people you’ll encounter working at area stores, restaurants and businesses are employees trying to do what their employers have requested. Most of those employers are trying to do what’s right and avoid a tussle with the Ohio Department of Health or Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
Criticizing the masks or the lack of them isn’t what our society needs right now. Ohio needs people to independently find their own place in the world as it is now.
If someone is afraid of the coronavirus, that’s OK. It caused the deaths of nearly 1,800 people in Ohio. We’re not sure what other ailments may come in the future for the nearly 28,000 confirmed cases in the state. If they want to restrict their travel, avoid strangers and wear a mask and gloves, they have the freedom to make that choice.
Similarly, if someone isn’t afraid of the coronavirus, that’s also OK. The numbers haven’t been as large as originally feared. Scientists learn new things daily about the virus that make our way of handling it seem outdated at times. If they choose not to wear a mask or alter their daily patterns, they have the freedom to make that choice.
What we can’t accept is the anger and rudeness that erupts when people with opposing viewpoints go head to head, even if it’s at an accepted 6 feet of social distancing.
Residents of the Midwest are often considered some of the nicest, most thoughtful people in America. We’re helpful. We’re understanding. We’re compassionate.
In short, we’re full of kindness. We need to show a little more of that as we all reemerge from our three-month slowdown.
Don’t let a global pandemic change who you fundamentally are. Enjoy your freedom to make your own decisions, but enjoy it with kindness.