When I was much younger, I thought that freedom meant I could do anything I wanted to. Splash every puddle in my path. Jump up and down on my parent’s bed all day long. But even then I knew I couldn’t rob a bank. Freedom, it turns out, has limits. As we get older we realize those limits are often there for a reason. Many generations ago brilliant minds came up with the idea that if we wanted to live together in a civil society we all needed to abide by a common set of rules. Those rules, or laws, would define what kind of community we are and as a practical matter help us settle disputes.
As I got older I came to realize that all of our inalienable rights come with responsibilities. The price we pay for freedom. One of those responsibilities is to accept that no two people think alike. It is entirely possible to respect another person’s point of view without having to change our own. Being different doesn’t make you wrong. We can embrace our differences, learn from each other and evolve or we can stubbornly cling to and reinforce our fears. Freedom allows us to choose our path.
I still like to jump on beds and splash in puddles, but I’m also mindful that if there’s a person on the floor below me or walking next to me they wouldn’t necessarily enjoy my experiences as much as I do. So, out of respect for them, I’ll wait until I’m alone.
Craig Hammerman is a life-long resident of Brooklyn and district manager of Community Board 6.