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The Wisdom of Experience is a Priceless Gift ... That Many Spurn

Leonard Pitts Jr., Tribune Content Agency on

Many years ago, one of my sons came to me, excited about a promotional offer from some bank. I no longer remember the offer or the bank, but I do remember telling him not to fall for it; I had accepted a similar offer years before, and it cost me several of my favorite limbs and the shirt off my back. If a thing sounds too good to be true, I advised, it probably is.

Long story short, he signs up anyway. A couple years later, he tells me his decision has, yes, cost him several of his favorite limbs and the shirt off his back. “You were right,” he says, ruefully. We were driving at the time, and I swear, I almost went off the road. Because, of course I was right. There was never a question that I was right. So why couldn’t he have just listened to me and saved himself some grief?

I’ve always taken it as illustration of an enduring paradox. Namely, that experience is a thing of extraordinary value and often exorbitant price. And yet, when you try to give it away, to hand it over to someone else free of charge, they frequently refuse to accept it.

That’s frustrating when you’re dealing with financial matters. It is beyond frustrating when you’re dealing with life and death. And here I’m thinking of Philip Valentine, whose funeral is this weekend. He was a conservative radio host and vaccine skeptic in Nashville who recently died of COVID-19. Not that I was personally touched by his death; I’d never even heard of him before he was hospitalized.

But he has become the latest symbol of this era’s defining cliche: the COVID-19 denier or vaccine holdout who ends up dying an excruciating death and wishing he had not refused to accept the benefit of other people’s experience. Not to pick on Valentine. He is not the first and, sadly, probably will not be the last. But again, he is the latest on a list that is growing long.

California church member Stephen Harmon scoffed at trusting Dr. Anthony Fauci over the Bible. He died of COVID-19.

 

Las Vegas dad Michael Freedy declined the vaccine because he was scared of side effects. He died of COVID-19.

Texas GOP official H. Scott Apley posted a meme mocking the virus. He died of COVID-19.

West Palm Beach radio host Dick Farrel claimed COVID-19 was overblown. He died of COVID-19.

Texas piano teacher Lydia Rodriguez thought she didn’t need a vaccine. She died of COVID-19.

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