The Social Contract

Social contract. 

A social contract is defined as an agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for the social benefits, as an example, sacrificing an individual’s freedom for the protection of the greater community.

This week was the first time I traveled on an airline since the beginning of the pandemic in the United States. To be specific, my last flight was to Danville, PA in the middle of March to Geisinger. 

I was a bit nervous. I had my own reservations in whether I thought it was going to be safe to fly. Not to mention since I was going from WI to California, I would have to connect in Minneapolis. 

This was the conversation playing in my mind leading up to my flight:

“Would everyone be wearing a mask? Would people be washing their hands? Would other travelers use hand sanitizer? Would the air on the plane be filtered? Do I sneeze in my mask or can I use my arm and sleeve? When I land, do I change clothes immediately? Did I bring enough hand sanitizer? Do I have enough masks for the trip?”

I am not a paranoid person. I am not a “germaphobe” when it comes to traveling (during non-pandemic times). Normally I am extremely calm when it comes to my travels. I arrive at the airport 30 minutes before takeoff, check my bag, go through security, and off I go. 

However, this time I was nervous. 

I was assured the airlines have done their part when it comes to using technology and processes to keep their passengers, crew, and airplane safe for travel. 

What made me nervous was the one thing airlines cannot account for, people. 

I live in Wisconsin. In the months leading up to this past week’s travel, I have many observations on how people may not always be keeping their agreement in our social contract to keep ourselves and the people in our communities safe. 

I have seen people in large gatherings not wearing a mask or staying 6′ apart. I have witnessed bars being standing room only inside with lines out the doors. I see people walking around stores with no mask or the ever-popular fashion statement of wearing it as a chin guard as an homage to our Green Bay Packers. 

People have knowingly not felt well and still gone to work. This week adults sent their students to school knowing they had been exposed. Then days later their child getting sick, testing positive, and forcing their classmates to forego their in-person education to be quarantined at home per school policy. 

This weekend one of my favorite places that just recently reopened announced that they were closing for two weeks. They made the decision because one of their employees had been in contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19. 

On my way home this week I got a call from my daughter’s school. Her entire 6th-grade class was being sent home for the mandatory two-week quarantine due to their contact assessment after multiple students testing positive (my daughter is not positive thankfully). 

At the beginning of the pandemic I made a statement to my colleagues: 

“We can get through this if everyone is willing to do their part. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Maintain a distance. Support local businesses. I will do my part. You have to do your part. My greatest fear is that I have to trust other people I do not know to keep their end of the agreement in this social contract. Unfortunately, I am not sure I can trust all the individuals in our community to fulfill their social contracts.” 

For 2 decades you have heard me speak about the N of 1. The power of N of 1.

How my decision at this moment makes a ripple for eternity. My decision now impacts myself and those around me. That one decision impacts the people in my community and the patients that he or she may become tomorrow. 

In Wisconsin, at the time of me writing this message, we have 1291 deaths. In the United States, there are a total of 204,000 deaths. 

That is the reality of breaking our social contract for the pandemic. Losing the life of a person in our community. 

All of us have the power to make a difference. We have an opportunity to turn all of this around for ourselves, our children, our community, and our businesses. We have the power to turn the tide, to make a difference, and to save lives. 

A decision to uphold our social contract to protect us all. 

A powerful decision that begins with me.

It begins with you.

A decision that happens at the N of 1.

A life saved at the N of 1. 

Please email your comments, thoughts, questions, or ideas to me directly at You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.


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