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Society no longer values gift of life


November 16, 2011
A couple of weeks ago, there was a woman who looked to be seven or eight months pregnant puffing away on a cigarette at the Harvest Homecoming festival in New Albany. At another festival a month earlier, there was a mother waving her cigarette freely above her young child's head.

Both women may be nice people and good mothers overall, but it was disturbing to see their actions. With all of the warnings about smoking, how could the pregnant woman risk birth defects for her unborn child? How could the other mother not only allow her child to breathe the smoke coming from her lit cigarette, but chance it burning him?

It sounds callous, but this is the only conclusion that makes sense: Society no longer is a respecter of life.

How else can you explain our mixed messages? State lawmakers, during the last session, proposed a statewide smoking ban in restaurants and other public places, but they conveniently exempted bars and casinos.

Despite being watered down, the legislation didn't become law. In reality, it probably never had much of a chance.

Many government health care programs are funded with tobacco taxes, and, without smokers, those programs either would be no more or have to be funded through traditional taxes. Neither is acceptable to many politicians who make a living giving people what they want, so they instead say all of the right things while, in reality, doing little to actually prevent people from smoking.

It goes beyond tobacco, however. The recent articles in this newspaper about drug use, including last week's piece about bath salts, are revealing. Young people talk about how it's OK to do some drugs. In reality, what they're saying is they don't respect themselves and their lives. They're willing to gamble that it won't be their lives that are destroyed, or ended prematurely, because of drug usage.

The same can be said about people who drink and drive. But, in their case, not only are they disrespectful of their own lives, they're showing a complete disregard for those of others.

Are we at a point where we are so miserable that we don't value what an amazing gift life is? Do we view life as nothing more than something to be passed casually? Or do we simply take it for granted?

My wife works with adults with developmental disabilities for an agency in Kentucky. I've had the privilege of photographing the Christmas party the agency has for its individuals for several years, and each time I come away with a greater appreciation for my life as well as that of others.

These men and women, despite having the so-called odds stacked against them, love life in a way that few others do. They don't dwell on what they don't have and instead focus on what they do, no matter how large or small it may seem to someone else.

Spend five minutes talking with them and you can see the love they have for their caregiver and others in their lives. They appreciate what they have and recognize it as the gift it is.

Why don't we all? Perhaps we're too consumed with things that don't matter, at least not really, and become unhappy. That unhappiness then manifests itself into a lack of respect.

That's not to say people intentionally are trying to harm themselves or others. They're just not thinking, but that is exactly the point: Society no longer truly respects life enough to understand that our actions may have real negative consequences for ourselves as well as others.

Every day babies are born with birth defects that could have been prevented, marriages and families fall apart because of drugs, alcohol or infidelity, and innocent people are killed because someone chooses to get behind the wheel after a few drinks.

All are avoidable. That is, if we respect ourselves and others. If we once again respect life.

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Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
Corydon Instant Print
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