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Mandatory mask notice in light of the COVID-19 pandemic on pink paper on entrance doors of Woodlawn Elementary School in Baton Rouge.

There was a time when I thought pecan trees waited for me to get up in the morning, then they would shed just enough pecans for me to easily fill a grit box for sale before 7 a.m.

There was a time I dreamed that one day I would lie in high grass on a prairie — whatever that was — and look up at the sun, like the little boy did on a page in my elementary reading book.

What an optimist.

Then the ways of the world came barreling down my path and I discovered that there were bad things, bad times, and bad people out there. That prairie visit might be tougher than I thought.

And it became clear that I had to do a lot better than the 25 cents I got for the grit box of pecans.

The bright light of realism had struck me square in the face and started guiding me down a long road where I finally stopped to camp out at the intersection of realism and pragmatism.

And that’s where I am today in this crazy world of mask or no mask. Do I care about you and do you care about me?

The hopeful little boy is all grown up and has concluded that not enough people care about others. Many of us care only about ourselves, my neighbor be damned.

As the person on Facebook replied to me, “I don’t owe anybody anything,” when I questioned his comments about not wearing a mask just as health experts cried out for their daily usage.

In recent weeks, I have lost a lifelong friend to COVID-19. At the time of this writing, I have another lifelong friend hospitalized with COVID-19. Her husband also has tested positive.

“Ed, I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,” my friend said a day before being hospitalized. “If people can stay home, I say that they should do that.”

Folks say politics plays a role in whether to wear a mask. The first time I put one on, the politics of it never crossed my mind. For the life of me, I don’t know where I got the first message from. I was onboard once the idea was put forth that wearing one could save lives.

In the course of a day, I may have a mask on for 15 minutes, tops. That’s a small sacrifice to make in my book. When you look at the numbers, more than 155,000 dead and around 4.6 million with the virus — yeah, that’s a small sacrifice.

I miss my friends, our barbecues, card games and bull sessions. But, the realist and the pragmatist in me says let it go for a little while. Many others, it seems, can’t do it.

Folks talk about people who survive and walk out of the hospital. No one discusses the humongous medical bills they will be saddled with. They don’t discuss the longtime effects the virus may have on their health. They don’t talk about the trauma to family and friends.

And, now there’s the petty part that I just have to mention. Those folks hooked on sports, who bleed their school and team colors, think about this: If that virus is not contained, there may never be a high school, college or professional sports season as we know it, for years.

Now there are other thoughts like reopening of schools. There is a big push to have in-person classes. Well, let’s think about that.

Will schools in more affluent areas be better protected than those in low-income areas? Schools in some ZIP codes, with the wealth of their families, will have all the protections that money and influence can buy. Those in the other ZIP codes, not so much.

And, in the schools, what would be an acceptable number of sick children and teachers to keep the school open? And, worse how many dead children, teachers and school workers will be acceptable to keep the school open?

Who will make that choice?

Major life-saving ideas and teamwork among us needs to happen to defeat this rogue virus. There’s a little boy whose dream of spending a carefree moment on a grassy prairie bed is depending on it.

Email Edward Pratt a former newspaperman, at