You only live once, and there are no do-overs

By Alan S. Chartock | May 3, 2023

Summer is a comin’ in, and with it we face the coming heat and the expectation that lots of things will be different.

Summer can be the best season and if you’re like me, you’ve been looking forward to the nicer weather. But the summer months bring with them the need to take extra care. For instance, we here in Great Barrington know that our wonderful Lake Mansfield will attract lots of people, including children and their parents who will walk hand in hand into the water. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate and you can see the goose bumps on people’s skin as they hit the cold water. Kids don’t seem to notice but we adults sure do. Of course, as the summer progresses, we’ll complain about the heat and sunburns.

A little child, left unattended near a pool or another body of water, risks drowning and leaving a family bereft. It happens all too often. You read about it and you hear about it but people still take incredible and unnecessary risks which can lead to the kind of tragedy from which a family can never recover. If you have ever known people who suffered this kind of loss, you know that they can never forgive themselves for that lapse in attention that led to such devastation. Even though we are all aware of the terrible possibilities, we never believe it can happen to us. But people get careless and distracted, and children can be gone in an instant.

Taking the simplest precautions can avert the worst kind of pain and suffering. It doesn’t stop with putting on sunblock or being careful near the water. A cigarette carelessly tossed out of a car window or an out-of-control campfire can lead to an inferno of a forest fire. Think about that for a moment. How many times have people come to the realization too late that they could have prevented a disastrous outcome if they had simply taken care.

We know that people do not always consider the consequences of what they are doing. Just remember all those times that you or a loved one hasn’t covered up under a burning sun and ended up with a miserable sunburn. If in your eagerness to get to the beach you forget to apply sunblock to yourself or your kids, remember that there’s a price to pay. It’s one thing when you can’t sleep because you have burned yourself but when your children are subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering because you left them uncovered or didn’t apply the right kind of protection to their skin, you will kick yourself for being so foolish. Of course, I am not telling you anything that you don’t already know. We have all been there.  When you go to a beach or even outside with your pet, it doesn’t take an Einstein to know what the risks are. We shouldn’t be cavalier about our skin – we are not invincible. We live in Lyme Tick land and that’s another thing to be cautious about. You have to thoroughly examine yourself, your kids, and your pets after you’ve been out, lest you end up getting some kind of tick-borne illness.

A parent leaves a child in a driveway and that child is run over. The rest of that parent’s life is spent saying over and over again, “If I had only stopped to think.” I hear about this stuff all the time. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a huge stop sign in front of us that would forbid us from doing something really stupid or dangerous? You only live once, and there are no do-overs.


Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].