My grandfather (Les) always lived without fear. In 2003 the SARS outbreak started to spread around the world. While it died out in less than a year on its own, thousands of people from over 25 countries were infected, and hundreds of people died. SARS was highly contagious and had a high death rate of around fifteen-percent. People started to get scared. There was a "Health Alert Notice" for traveling from the US to Hong Kong because the outbreak had started in that province. During the middle of this, Les decided he wanted to visit Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos with no fear about how close to Hong Kong he was getting with this trip.
As always, Les asked my father (Kurt) if he wanted to tag along. My mother (Beverly) had an incredible reaction to the idea, she said:
"If you go on this trip and come back with SARS and your ten-year-old son with Down syndrome gets it, I'm just going to go into quarantine and die with him."
Les went on the trip by himself.
Les didn't worry at all about getting near affected countries during an outbreak. While this one ended up dying out in about six months, no one knew that would happen at the time, and plenty of people became infected. It's worth noting that Les wasn't going against the grain simply to rebel; he just didn't let his decisions come from fear. Going on that trip was what it was always about: finding another series of life changing events and documenting every second of it with his camera. I don’t know if you could have stopped him from making that trip. Fear didn’t even seem to factor in. Even my mother's reaction to the trip wasn't fear-based. Was she scared of the virus? I'm sure she was, but her response wasn't "You can't go" or "I'm worried what might happen" it was "If you get sick, this is what I'm doing." Fear is still there, but it's not making the decision.
A buildup of fear
Right now, most of the country is on lockdown. We can't leave our houses for a while, but everything is still working (power, water, gas, etc…). It comes from logic, if you don't see as many people, fewer people will get sick. There's still plenty of fear, though. It's so easy to sit by the TV and wait for the world to end because every minute there's a new statistic to worry about or another reason to buy even more toilet paper. We really don't know what's going to happen, and frankly, more opinions from more people on TV aren't going to change that. I could get sick tomorrow or hit by a bus long after this is over. Regardless of what's going to happen, I'm not deciding what I do because of my fear.
My brother has Down syndrome, so he's part of the group you hear about referred to as "highly susceptible" to a virus like this one. So what do I do? Should I get a bunker and just wait it out for two years and see if anyone survives? Is it time for a trip to Cambodia? Or do we stay home, only leaving to get food and medicine, and just hope for the best?
Fear isn't simple. It doesn't care what other people think or compare you to others. Did your last decision come from fear? You know if it did. You can tell because it's one of those things that you know you wanted to do, but you talked yourself out of it with a lot of "what if" statements. Reasons to doubt your initial decision slowly piling up being summarized with one word: fear.
I really appreciate that there are people out there like Les, that don't let fear make the decision for them. There's always plenty to be afraid of. We can't ignore what's going, and we often can't stop it from happening, but we don't have to react out of fear.