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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Risk Versus Reward

By the time you are reading this, we will be in the process of trying to reclaim the lives we had before the Coronavirus derailed them. Thankfully, we didn’t suffer as many deaths as was once predicted, but we are deeply sorry for those who did lose a loved one or who suffered a hardship.

Now, we move into another unknown territory: How to safely go about our lives.

While we were holed up in our homes, when I wasn’t spending my free time reading novels, I was watching television. I don’t know if it was because I was hypersensitive to pandemics, but it seemed as if everything I watched, at some point, contained a thread about a pandemic. Some I suspected were purposely broadcast. One Saturday while I was working out in my game room, I thought I’d try MeTV.

Many of my friends love this channel because it plays reruns of old television shows. Gunsmoke came on, and the episode that aired dealt with a pandemic of typhoid that threatened to shut down Dodge City much to the dismay of the merchants who saw their livelihoods jeopardized. Next on was Bonanza, and Hoss, Little Joe and Adam, although not suffering through a pandemic, were going a bit “squirrely” because they’d been holed up at the Ponderosa for more than a month because spring rains had washed out the roads to Virginia City. It was funny to see people react on the shows the same way people were reacting today.

I’m a big fan of historical dramas, and we watched the Netflix series Medici, which followed the famed family in 15th Century Florence. In one episode, the plague struck, slowing down the building of The Duomo. My favorite show ever on Netflix is The Last Kingdom, and a new season debuted while we were at home. In this season, we saw fearless warriors quake in their boots when they met Saxons fleeing from the castle in Mercia because of the “sickness.”

I like to fact check these historical shows, and while doing that, I came across a book published in 1891 called A History of Epidemics in Britain from A.D. 664 to the Extinction of the Plague. What was captivating about this book after glancing through it online was that sickness, death and subsequent famine were such a common occurrence, it was as much a part of the human experience as life itself.

For many of us, we’ve been lucky to have been born in a country and day and age when we know more about preventing disease and nothing of the famine that our forebearers did, and we’ve been blessed and a bit na├»ve to expect that we would never suffer the things previous generations have had to endure. We have forgotten that life has always been a crap shoot.

Another show I watched on Netflix a while back was Hell on Wheels, which dramatized how incredible a feat the building of the transcontinental railroad was across America. The show featured a character named Eva, who had a chin tattoo given to her while she was a captive of the Indians. I also like to watch a series on YouTube called Biographics, and what caught my eye was a woman’s bio on there named Olive Oatman, and she was a real-life person who was captured as a child by Indians while on the Oregon Trail and was given that kind of tattoo.

While watching Oatman’s biography, the narrator dropped this fact: That there are 65,000 people buried along the Oregon Trail who died either from sickness, starvation or Indian attack. Can you imagine that? Or what about the thousands who died on coffin ships while traveling to our shores for a better life? Or what about the 5,000 Americans who died building the Panama Canal? Or the nearly two dozen astronauts who perished in their quest to explore space?

Now, as we venture out of our houses and timidly dip our toes back into civilized society, remember to take the necessary precautions to do what you can to remain safe, but to also remember all of those who have gone before us who knew that life has always been a risk. They also knew that not taking a chance, living your life in fear is no reward, and can be a fate worse than death.

This originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of Northern Connection Magazine.