December 3, 2020

Why we need to Let People Be—even if their Choices are Questionable.

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.

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There has been an uproar in Aurora and Colorado Springs, Colorado about the In-N-Out Burger joints that just opened.

People were lining up for hours to get their burgers. I even saw someone selling one on Facebook Marketplace for $25. I’m pretty sure they aren’t that expensive normally.

I’ve seen a lot of people posting not-so-nice things and shaming people for wanting to spend their time and money there. Yes, I made a call to support local businesses, but I think it’s cruel to judge people for the little bit of happiness they are finding in an otherwise unhappy circumstance.

COVID-19 has hit many people hard. Whether it’s losing their job and trying to find work, to being away from family members for days upon weeks, to maybe losing a loved one sooner than they thought.

We are all different human beings, and we all like different things. That’s what makes our world so beautiful. This was a lesson that was taught to me many years ago, in grade school, when we read The Giver by Lois Lowry.

In the book, there is a civilization that has basically given up a lot to not have to worry about life. Everything is curated for them—there is no war, and no one gets sick. They have arranged marriages, and each couple is given a boy and a girl to raise, ensuring that there will remain the same number of people all the time. Some women have the job of being birthers, meaning they give birth to those babies that are handed out.

Part of what they give up, though, is they can’t see color. Everything is black and white. As the reader, we only find this out when one boy is chosen to receive the history of the world, from The Giver. Once this boy learns about the history of the world, he realizes how terrible their lives truly are. He fights to get what we have right now, in our world. He wants to see all the color that we get to see, even if it means dealing with the bad. The war, the strife, the disease. He wants to have choices.

I see, in a sense, that this year is a lot like the world of The Giver.

We have fewer choices right now, and rightfully so. It’s for the greater good. That doesn’t mean we can’t be frustrated at times and mourn what we once had. Our connections are smaller and more distant. It would be easy to see the world in black and white this year, with how much everyone is missing things.

That also means that people are making do with the choices they have. They are trying to find color in any place they can. The world seems pretty bleak for now, because it feels like there is no end in sight. Even with possible vaccines, professionals are suggesting it may still be months before we see results. This has been a long, cold winter of our lives.

Let’s not hate people for things that don’t really affect other people. One burger bought through a chain restaurant is not likely to do much damage. There are still local people working there. Customers are still paying sales tax, which goes to our local government. Those people who sat in their cars for hours will still buy their gas from local businesses. Things will calm down, and the burger place will be like any other in town: busy during lunch and dinner, less busy at other times.

People who used to eat there when they were kids will either remember their fond memories, or realize the food tasted different when we were all kids. They will find a little brightness in their day and maybe they will be a little nicer to the next people they come across, because it’s much easier to be nice when we are already happy.

Let people be; let them have their little indulgences once in a while. At the very least, even if we disagree, let’s be kind.

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