I want to tell you about something that happened last week which gave me an opportunity to see how people see things differently.

Since the pandemic started, we have been having dinner outside on our patio overlooking a lake in Palm Beach County, Florida. We have a beautiful view and the many varieties of birds put on a nightly spectacle.

Every night around dinnertime, many people are out in their small boats, canoes and kayaks. One night last week, two young boys, not more than seven or eight years old, were playing in their own kayaks, splashing each other. I noticed that neither one was wearing a life vest.

“Do your parents know that you are in the middle of the lake without your lifevests?”

Being the good neighbor, I posted a message on the community bulletin board website that I was concerned that the boys were not acting responsibly in their boats. I questioned if the parents knew that they were out on the lake without their life vests.

Typical community message board

Within a few minutes, some nasty responses from within our community started to appear.

One person said that I should mind my own business and stop trying to tell parents how to raise their children.

Another called me “Captain Dan” and told me that the next time they allowed their children on the lake, they would call me for permission.

Another respondent told me that my wife should take away my keyboard.

To be fair, there were a few who thanked me for my concern. Many of them know as a pediatrician, I am a strong advocate for safety and accident prevention.

What really surprised me was how vehemently people reacted. I realized that people write things online that they probably wouldn’t say to anyone in person.

Nowadays everyone is so over-sensitive. It is difficult for people with opposite points of view to have a friendly discussion. People have become afraid to say anything because the words that they might use may be perceived as offensive. In an instant, a person’s reputation may be permanently ruined.

I believe that we need to return to the point where we can peacefully disagree with each other. Given the stressful conditions under which we are living, we should understand that everyone might not share the same opinion. We should go out of our way to understand the other person’s intent before we get angry.

Many times what is considered criticism may actually be true neighborly concern for others.

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