Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mortal Stupidity

I've long served as an advocate for personal safety, especially when it comes to bike helmets, seat belts and car seats (for young children). As a rabbi in Detroit, I used to randomly distribute tickets for free Slurpees to kids wearing their bicycle helmets, and I spoke about safety from the pulpit. To this day, I marvel at parents who allow their children to ride their bikes without wearing a helmet by claiming, half-heartedly (and, to my mind, pathetically), "What can I do? They don't listen to me." I'll tell you what you can do: You can take away the bicycle, and make the child walk. I'm fairly confident that after a week without the bicycle, the helmet will find its way onto said child's head. Even Rivkah fell off her camel. Thank God she was wearing a helmet!
I write this as I was reminded of the need for personal safety reading a rather tragic obituary. Any death, especially at a young age, is a tragedy. It's especially tragic when it could and should have been avoided. Still, a recent obituary in the NY Times caught my attention.
I was somewhat confident about the "cause of death" when I read the headline: "Jamie Pierre, Free Skier Known for Feats of Daring, Dies at 38." He didn't die of food poisoning. Rather, this "professional big-mountain skier" died "when an avalanche carried him about 800 feet over rocky terrain and a small cliff." Sadly, "the area was off-limits at the time; the resort had not yet opened for the season and avalanche-control measures had not yet been taken." Even more sadly, "Pierre had many concussions over the years but refused to wear a helmet. 'If something’s so dangerous it requires a helmet,' he said, 'then maybe I shouldn’t be doing it.'"
For whatever reason, our kids somehow think that they're similarly immune to head injury. I see them riding around our yishuv all the time without helmets, as hapless parents think nothing of it.
Parents, I don't think there's any better way to say it. Take some posthumous advice from a professional big-mountain skier. If something's so dangerous that it requires a helmet...wear a helmet.