Not the Weird New Kid Any More

I felt like the “weird new kid” when our family moved to Kent in 2012. I wasn’t a part of the church-planting team who moved from Bowling Green in 2008. But I wasn’t the traditional 18- or 19-year-old freshman on campus either. I had three kids in elementary school. I was a 35-year-old newcomer who preferred to measure distance in metric units and said “Indeed” too much.

It felt like I was always going to be the “weird new kid” forever.

But the seasons kept changing. Kent State University students came and went. I remember two students, named Rachel and Caleb, who were a part of the church when we first arrived. They were siblings, and their younger brother, named Nathan, was thinking about coming to Kent State University. I remember meeting Nathan and playing basketball with Nathan. We became friends over time, even though he was a college student and I was a middle-aged pastor.

A couple of years later — after Caleb and Rachel had graduated and Nathan became an upperclassman and student-leader in our church — I learned that another still-younger brother, named Seth, was thinking about coming to Kent State University. He was just as delightful as his older siblings. And I was glad to get to know him, too.

In the summer of 2016, Nathan and Seth joined the group from Kent who traveled to Colorado for our summer Leadership Training project. We went on hikes together. On one of those hikes, I remember talking with Nathan about a young woman to whom he was thinking about proposing. And eventually, they did get married. Rachel got married, too. Nathan and his wife Kailey started having kids. Rachel and her husband Tim started having kids. And then, yesterday they all came together. For the wedding of Seth and Julia.

Somehow, watching that wedding ceremony felt like a mile marker for me. Nathan, Kailey, Seth, and Julia were still in high school when our family first moved to Kent. But now I’ve watched them all start college. I’ve watched them all finish college. I’ve watched them move on to careers and marriages and families. And I’m still here, a pastor of H2O Church at Kent State University. Not the “weird new kid” any more! I’ve watched so much life unfold over the course of these last nine years. The effect is exaggerated because everyone else is moving, while I’m staying the same. I’m not young any more. But I enjoy watching youth flourish and mature into adulthood.

I feel happy. At peace. And I’m thankful that I’m not the weird new kid any more.

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Empathy for the Hesitant

I’ve been thinking, praying, and processing some pandemic recovery stuff lately. And I feel like I had an epiphany this morning while walking in the woods.

I started by praying for a nurse who’s recently been hospitalized for COVID-19. She has two little kids, and she’s already missed more than a week of work. She had to get a lung drained of fluid already. Now she’s receiving anti-viral treatments. So it’s pretty serious (but hopefully not life-threatening). Apparently, two other nurses from the same department have also recently tested positive for COVID-19. They’re also struggling to varying degrees, but fortunately not hospitalized.

It all got me wondering. All of these people are medical professionals. They’ve had access to the COVID-19 vaccines for months. And they’re still getting sick. I don’t know if it’s because they’re breakthrough cases. Or maybe because they liked their chances against the virus better than their chances against the vaccines. I started doing some internet research on my smartphone. And my hunch was confirmed that the situation at this local hospital is not unique. A very helpful February article from the New Yorker confirmed that many health care workers are hesitant about the vaccines. Not Medical Doctors (MDs). Approximately ninety percent of them are in favor of the vaccines and are (or plan to be) vaccinated themselves. But other health care workers — like Registered Nurses (RNs) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) — and are far more reluctant. About 50/50, in fact, regarding the vaccines.

The article reminded me of similar statistics reported by the National Association of Evangelicals. Apparently 97% of pastors are in favor of the COVID-19 vaccines. But only something like 60% of parishioners. Why would this be?!?

Looking through the Lens of Injustice

I thought of the people I know who are hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccines. I thought about the way that the New Yorker article noted how a large percentage of CNAs are young; over a third are Black; and ninety percent are women. It also said that hesitancy is more common among Republicans, rural residents, and people of color.

I recently heard a podcast in which a scientist advocated for art and music as avenues to assist science by helping people’s brains to look for patterns. And as I thought through the people who tend towards vaccine hesitancy, a pattern emerged. A pattern of injustice, oppression, and marginalization.

I’d previously been inclined to feel angry about people who were choosing not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. I suspected they were being stubborn or self-centered. Maybe unsuspecting political pawns. I just wanted them all to get the vaccine so there wouldn’t be such a burden on our health care system… so the economy could fully recover… so older people wouldn’t have to suffer and die… so life could get back to normal for all of us.

But looking at the situation through the lens of injustice, I felt far greater compassion. Much less anger. And even some level of understanding. I thought about those nurses and nursing assistants generally disadvantaged because of their age, their gender, their race. Their disadvantage doubled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Affluent college fraternity brothers insisted on enjoying their Spring Break trips to Florida and passed the virus around without consideration for others. Meanwhile, the RNs and CNAs cleaned up their messes. When these health care workers got sick or died on the front lines of the pandemic, their families were further disadvantaged. Their insurance companies wiggled out of financial responsibility whenever they could. (In many cases, insurance coverage for part-time health care workers was so poor to begin with that they didn’t even have to do much wiggling).

When Getting Back to “Normal” is Problematic

Nurses and Aides are often pegged as underlings to the Physicians who can come across as having something of a “god complex.” So perhaps hesitation is a survival mechanism! They’ve been victims of injustice for so long: the working class… people of color… women… the young… the “yokels” at the butt of so many yuppies’ jokes. It makes sense that they’re not too concerned about their vaccine hesitancy gumming up the works a bit. They’re not about to do any favors for “The Economy” or “The Health Care System” after they way they’ve been treated by these higher powers in our society.

Their bodies are one of the few realms in which they can exhibit autonomy. So it somehow makes more sense to me, now, why they might hesitate.

I need to check my privilege. Again and again. Getting back to “normal” works out pretty well for me. But that’s not the case for everybody. And when all of this came together in my mind and in my heart today, I experienced peace. Something like scales fell from my eyes. I was able to have charitable thoughts towards those who are reluctant to get the vaccine. I shifted from a posture of anger and impatience to a posture of repentance for my own pride and my (subconscious) complicity in the systems that have caused others to view the rest of the world in the way they do.

I’m still glad that I got the vaccine. I hope that others will come around to the idea of being vaccinated — for their own benefit and for the benefit of others. At the same time, I’m very thankful for this fresh wave of understanding that allows me to approach others with greater kindness, gentleness, and empathy.

Posted in COVID-19, Culture, Culture Shock, God, H2O Kent, Health, Introspection, Kent, Ohio, Prayer, Social Issues, The United States of America, Transition | Comments Off on Empathy for the Hesitant

23rd Wedding Anniversary

This month marks our 23rd wedding anniversary! So we decided to celebrate with a two-night getaway to the New River Gorge of West Virginia. It truly felt like a getaway — a four-hour drive from home, in a different region of the United States, with a very different topography — but it wasn’t too far. We didn’t have to spend too much time in transit. We were able to gently stretch our traveling muscles again. And we let our kids take care of themselves while we were away (which truly feels like the beginning of a new era).

We’ve also learned that we like rural anniversary getaways more than urban anniversary getaways. And since the New River Gorge was recently designated as the United States’ newest national park, it felt like the perfect setting. So we booked an AirBnB in Fayetteville. And we enjoyed three days of each other’s company.

We got to visit the New River Gorge National Park and hike a few miles on the Appalachian Trail — which are some of my favorite things. And we also got to visit Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke (Virginia) — which is one of Marci’s favorite things. We also spent a good bit of time relaxing in our cabin, too. We ate good food. It was a time for recreation and reconnection, and it was just lovely to spend so much time with my lovely wife.

Our relationship is not perfect. We’re learning a lot these days about how to work together through our “sandwich years” — where we’re still providing some level of care for our children as they transition from adolescence to young adulthood, while also starting to care more meaningfully for our aging parents. We’re aging, ourselves. And we’re all learning how to adjust to life, post-pandemic. But at least we get to figure these things out together. I don’t want to ever take Marci for granted, and these annual anniversary getaways help to keep that from happening.

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Fully Vaccinated

Marci and I are both fully vaccinated! We’re now two weeks past our second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19. And it was only a couple of days, there, where we could read the minds of animals. Our tails never grew longer than a couple of inches, and they’ve since disappeared completely.

I’m joking, of course. Maybe it’s not funny to joke about these things. But then again, maybe it is.

The truth is that we suddenly feel a sense of freedom and release. Now that the likelihood of us catching COVID — or giving it to someone else — has dropped significantly, we feel like we have a longer leash. So we recently decided to take a five-hour road trip down to the New River Gorge of West Virginia. Mostly to celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary, but also to celebrate our vaccination-assisted freedom.

We noticed an interesting phenomenon when we stopped for lunch in Parkersburg around mid-day. The restaurant posted a sign on the front door, apparently requiring masks. So we didn’t think anything about complying with the sign. It’s still the default behavior at this point. But when we got past the Host Station and into the Dining Room, we noticed that nobody else was wearing a mask. Even among the restaurant’s staff. If anything, it seemed like everyone else was looking at us funny because of our masks. So we took them off. And even when the server came to our table, we kept them off. Even when we went to the bathroom, we went mask-less. It felt weird, but also kind of nice — because we didn’t worry about catching or transmitting the virus from Parkersburg to some other place.

Over the course of the afternoon, however, we processed that experience. And by the time we went out for dinner in Fayetteville, we decided to recalibrate. We decided that since the CDC continues to recommend masks for any indoor assembly (even after vaccination), we will continue to wear masks. Even if that puts us in the minority. We know that we’ve done everything within our power to minimize the spread of COVID-19 — but that’s not immediately apparent to others around us. And since we want to stay others-oriented in our approach to the pandemic recovery, we’re going to keeping practicing standard COVID precautions for the foreseeable future.

Our trip to the New River Gorge is not intentionally symbolic. But it feels like an apt metaphor! For decades, the only way across the deep gorge in the mountains was a winding road full of switchbacks, down one side of the gorge, across the river on a ferry or (later) over an old bridge, and up the other. Even in an automobile, it took about an hour. In the 1970s, however, they built a bridge to span the gorge. And now that same stretch can be crossed in less than ten seconds, driving at 60 miles per hour. Today visitors can use either route (and we did both this afternoon!). But it’s nice to be able to have the choice.

Being vaccinated against COVID-19 feels kind of like that. We know how to do things the old, slow way. But we also have the means to go full-speed when we need to. I hope more and more people will learn how to take the quicker, easier route (our experience with the vaccine has truly been positive). But I also hope that we’ll hold onto the lessons we’ve learned this year: looking out for others, adjusting to their comfort level, and taking the long way when needed.

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Track Season

Track & Field is the worst spectator sport.

Meets last a minimum of three hours, even though the longest of my son’s three events lasts for about six minutes. The weather is highly volatile: sometimes snowy… more often rainy… and occasionally sunny (sometimes all within the same meet!). It takes a lot of strength and endurance to make it through the season — and the student-athletes have to work hard, too (ba-doom-ching!)!

Still, I’m actually thankful for my boys’ involvement in Track & Field.

The meets help to slow me down in an otherwise-busy season of the year. When Spring smiles on us and soaks the stands with sunshine (like it did this week), it feels like a great privilege to sit outside for a while. Yesterday, I got to sit next to my parents for the whole meet. Some of our family’s closest friends have boys who run Track, just like Cor — so we get to hang out with them, too. There is community — even in the miserable moments — and that makes it all feel more worthwhile.

It’s also great when the boys perform well. This week, all of the boys on our distance team tied or improved upon their times in the mile (Cor finished with a Personal Best of 5 minutes and 47 seconds). So we went home with a sense of happy exhaustion and fatigue. The life of a Track Family is not always easy or fun, but it’s still a good life.

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Good Stories with Good People

We finished the year by telling stories. We said the stories could feature heroes. But the heroes must be others (not ourselves). We said the stories could feature fools. But the fools must be ourselves (not others). And with those simple parameters, we had a truly lovely evening of laughing, celebrating, reflecting, and grieving.

I’m so proud of these women and men who worked together to lead “The Fellowship of the Hawk” through a most unusual year of ministry. They pursued God. They pursued each other. And they came out of the experience stronger, wiser, more mature, and more devoted to Jesus.

We’re saying good-bye to Regan and Dillon, as they graduate and move to southwest Ohio for new jobs and such. And while change almost always seems to produce some level of sadness, my dominant emotion at this end-of-the-school-year celebration was joy. Not happiness (which is more circumstantial). Deep, abiding joy. I was thankful for good stories by, about, and for good people.

I’m not even going to try and recapture those stories here, in this space. But I just wanted to tell the story that we told stories. And snapped a few group portraits. And it was good.

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Astoria

I recently finished reading Peter Stark’s history, Astoria. I seem to remember hearing about it from my friend Bill, but that was quite a while ago. If my memory serves me well, I saw the book on sale in digital form shortly after hearing about it from Bill, so I scooped up my own copy for Kindle. But I never really got into a flow with the narrative (partly because of personal life circumstances, partly because of the story). So I read the book in little pieces, over the course of two or three years. Now that our family is hoping to visit Astoria (Oregon) this summer, however, I felt like I had the push I needed to finish this book.

It’s still crazy to consider the colonial era. People saw the world as a blank canvas, where they could blaze new trails and establish new societies. They didn’t really take existing geographical constraints and cultural clashes into account. Consequently, they made a lot of mistakes. And the story of Astoria makes one wonder how any colonial endeavors ever actually succeeded.

The events in Astoria took place shortly after the American Revolution. A businessman named John Jacob Astor devised a plan to establish a fur-trading empire in the Pacific Northwest. Nobody knew that those parts would someday become a part of the United States of America. The region could have just as easily ended up as British territory, or Indian territory, or an independent nation-state. Astor seemed to have been angling for an independent nation-state (albeit one closely aligned with the United States). But his top priority was making money. And in that way, the book follows a very American trajectory.

The strongest figure in the book was John Jacob Astor, the “angel investor” in the project. Ironically, though, he never set foot in the Pacific Northwest! Instead he assembled a bizarre mix of French-Canadian voyageurs, English sailors, American fur-traders, and Native American guides. He supplied them with weapons, food, trading goods, and money, and then he sent them around the southern tip of South America to the Oregon coast. They established a settlement which still remains — at least in some form — so they didn’t completely fail. But they made a lot of mistakes. Miscommunication abounded. Circumstances didn’t break their way. And as a result, Astor’s endeavor ultimately failed.

I didn’t really feel much sympathy for Astor or any of the other figures from the story. They were generally unlikeable, and their mission was not inspirational. I wasn’t at all sad when the book reached its tragic conclusion.

So does that mean it wasn’t a good book? I don’t know. It probably won’t make my Top Ten list for the year. Still, there was something very human about the story. I feel like there must be some lessons from Astoria that would still benefit the United States today. But I’m probably not going to be dedicating much time to figuring out (or teaching) those lessons. It just feels like a fool’s errand to parse out all the missteps of that fools’ errand that was Astoria.

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A Perspective from Africa

I’m always curious to get a global perspective on current events. And as alluded previously, I was recently emailing with a friend in Africa about the COVID-19 Vaccine. He had told me in early March that his country had only received “a couple small shipments of a few hundred vaccines,” and nobody knew exactly where they went. So as I approached my own vaccination, I experienced some guilt that stemmed from my privileged position. I asked my friend if he had any thoughts for how an American Christian should deal with this global inequity. And he responded with the following (quoted by permission, with a request to remain anonymous, and just a few minor edits):

Eric,

Yes, there is massive inequity in vaccine distribution. From what I understand, though, those decisions were made last year, when the vaccines were purchased, and at this point in the vaccination rollout there’s not much we can do to hit reset. Frankly, I think there are a lot of good global results in the US using its amazing infrastructure and efficiency to distribute the vaccine more rapidly than most other countries can. But I’m glad that President Biden has elected to participate in Covax, which will become a great help. At this stage it might be good for the US to just vaccinate every American who will take it while beginning some level of vaccine sharing now, and then when that’s done throw the lessons the US learned in vaccine distribution into helping other countries. 

So, at this stage, I think the inequity can be best addressed by acknowledging the inequality, praying for it, and urging elected leaders to push for the US to help with both vaccine shipments and rollout internationally. Remembering the rest of the world is so important, as I can already sense the US is getting past the virus and assuming that the rest of the world is too. But it is quite likely that the majority of the world’s population will be in the trenches with covid at least through the end of the year, and we need to be reminded of that. 

And I can’t help but see parallels between how America is treating the vaccine and how the American church handles access to the gospel. America is flooded with access to the gospel while millions of people live in unreached people groups, going their whole lives without hearing the gospel or getting to know someone who can tell them the truth about Jesus. And yet, as I understand it, almost all of the American church’s resources stay in America, and of what does go internationally, the vast majority of what goes to places where there is already access to the gospel and a viable church. Of course I believe in the value of investing in ministry in America and other places where the church is established… but I believe the American church would do well to allocate more of our resources toward those with little or no access to the gospel. And I’d start not not money, but with our human resources. I mean, if we had 2 or 3 H2O’ers come spend a year with us after graduation, for example, it would make a significant long-term difference. 

Of course, this analogy between distributing the vaccine and spreading the gospel is really tenuous, so I don’t want to push it. Vaccine distribution is complicated, as is the global spread of the good news. And unlike the vaccine, the gospel is eternal life, the power of God, and American Christians have tremendous direct influence over how it’s distributed. 

Okay, those are some long musings, 
Your Friend in Africa

I think this perspective is so vital. Not just regarding the COVID-19 vaccine in Africa — but regarding the Good News of God’s Kingdom throughout history and around the world! I think there’s something really significant going on right now, with this moment in history. It’s revealing our hearts. Personal sins and societal sins.

I’m going to be praying for Africa, and I invite you to pray with me. We can be praying specifically for the distribution (and acceptance) of the COVID-19 vaccine in Africa. But we can also be praying for our country’s soul, in this midst of this crisis. We can reach out to our political representatives to support the Covax program (regardless of our own desire to get the shot or not). And — perhaps most importantly — we can heed Jesus’ call to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Who’s with me?

Posted in American Politics, Church, COVID-19, Culture, God, H2O Kent, Health, Politics, Prayer, Science and Christianity, Social Issues | Comments Off on A Perspective from Africa

How It Worked When Our Family Got the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID Vaccine Spotter

I recently shared some of the “Why” behind my decision to get the COVID-19 Vaccine. I still have doubts that sharing about my process will be persuasive for anyone. Nevertheless, I figured I might as well follow up with some of the “How” our family went about things, in case it might be helpful to others. The logistics of it all are fascinating.

COVID-19 Vaccine Registration

The State of Ohio determined that Marci and I were eligible for the vaccine starting March 19th. So that morning, I spent about three hours at the desktop computer in our home office, learning the system and booking our appointments. The website for the Ohio Department of Health has a wealth of information, but it doesn’t actually help to schedule any vaccination appointments. It just lists the providers and their contact information. That’s why it took awhile to find a site for each of us to receive our shots. I personally found the Vaccine Spotter website to be the most helpful in my search. Their listing of available supplies and appointments appeared more accurate than others. So it helped to narrow down the list of providers, each of whom have their own system.

I ended up booking one appointment for Marci at a CVS Drug Store in Mansfield, Ohio. And I booked one appointment for myself at a Giant Eagle Supermarket in Solon, Ohio. March 24th and March 26th, respectively. So five days and six days out from the date we became eligible. And we felt pretty fortunate with those outcomes.

Elliot and Olivia became eligible for the vaccine starting March 29th. But since they had confirmed cases of COVID in mid-March, we consulted with medical experts who advised us to wait to start their vaccination process in mid-April. So just this week, I helped Elliot use the aforementioned online tools to find and book an appointment at the Walmart here in Kent. But it was so much easier just three weeks after booking the appointments for Marci and me! He got an appointment at a time and date that was convenient for him. And the whole process took perhaps five minutes.

Olivia wanted to find a weekend appointment, which proved to be more challenging — at least with the Vaccine Spotter website (it points to more supermarkets and drug stores which seem to prefer weekday vaccinations). I spent about thirty minutes trying to find something and then gave up. But reading yesterday’s newspaper, I learned that there was a drive-in mass vaccination site in Akron that still had openings. So I called the number listed in the paper and got her scheduled for same-day service within ten minutes.

COVID-19 Vaccination

Marci got her shots at the CVS Drug Store in Mansfield. It was a bit of a drive (about an hour and a half), back to our home county. But once she got there, the process went extremely quickly and smoothly. Even with the 15-minute waiting period to make sure there are no allergic reactions to the injection, she was in and out in less than thirty minutes. The process was identical for both shots. And she got a “Vaccinated for COVID-19” sticker each time (which I thought was kind of cool).

I got my shots at the Giant Eagle Supermarket in Solon. It took me about thirty minutes to drive there. But like Marci, the actual process of getting the vaccine went very quickly and smoothly. There were maybe 75 people going through the process at the same time as me, but the only waiting I really had to do was that 15-minute check for allergic reactions. No stickers at that Giant Eagle in Solon, though.

Olivia got to experience the drive-in mass vaccination approach to vaccination, and it also felt astonishingly efficient. We drove through four different stations where we (1) Received instructions and an information packet, (2) Filled out paperwork and verified Olivia’s identity, (3) Received the shot while sitting in the car, and (4) Waited 15 minutes to check for adverse reactions.

Elliot hasn’t gotten his first shot yet, so I can’t report on Walmart’s systems. But it seems like most medical providers have figured out their procedures. The agonizing hours of refreshing an web browser to find an appointment and the long lines waiting for a shot seem to be things of the past. At least in our area.

COVID-19 Vaccine Recuperation

Everyone in our household is getting the Pfizer-BioNTech two-stage vaccine. We’re just slightly past the half-way point (five out of eight total shots), so we can’t speak with certainty or authority. But it doesn’t seem like any of us are having too much difficulty with our immune system responses to the vaccines.

Marci had no side effects of any kind with her first shot. She felt some fatigue and a nagging headache after her second shot. Her most significant and most prolonged symptom after the second shot was swollen lymph nodes under her arm. The swelling seems to finally be dissipating now, on the fourth day after her second shot.

I honestly don’t know if I had any side effects after my first shot. None of the classic headache, fever, or achiness, at least. I did, however, have some skin issues in the week following my first shot. Maybe related; maybe unrelated. The left side of my neck and my left ear felt sun-burned (warm to the touch, reddened, dry, itchy and flaky later on). A few spots on my hands and forearm felt seemed like they were having a reaction to poison ivy (small blisters, itchy). So maybe I just so happened to get sun-burned and a case of poison ivy in the same week that I got the shot. Or maybe they were some uncommon reactions to the shot. Either way, even if those were side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, they all cleared up within a week.

My second shot followed the “standard script.” About six hours after the shot, I started to feel a headache creeping in. Eight hours after the shot, I felt zapped of all energy. In bed that night, I felt feverish and achy. And throughout the next day, I felt perhaps 85% healthy. Not full strength; but also not disabled. The worst symptom was a headache that I’d rate a 3 on a 1-10 pain scale. About 30 hours after the second shot, I felt fully back to normal.

Olivia is still just 20 hours into her recuperation process, following her first dose, but so far she says she’s feeling totally normal. We had feared there might be stronger immune responses from Olivia and Elliot, since they had confirmed cases of COVID-19. They’d both heard horror stories from friends. Allegedly, those who’d gotten the sickness and then the vaccine felt pretty awful for a pretty long time (like three days). Especially after their first shot. Fortunately, that has not (yet) been the case with Olivia. And we’re hoping that Elliot’s experience might match his sister’s.

COVID-19 Vaccine Conclusion

So far, so good. Our household’s experience with vaccination has not been completely painless, but it also seems like a small price to pay for some of the peace of mind and freedom that we’ll experience moving forward. I hope that others will come to similar conclusions, so that we can all start to move past this pandemic. If you have any questions or need help with any steps in the process, feel free to reach out. We’re glad to help!

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Why I Decided to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

I got my second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 this week.

I know that different people are making different decisions about the vaccine. And I know that it’s neither friendly nor effective to argue about these differences. Consequently, I’m trying to be very careful about “You should…” or “You better not…” statements. Still, I wanted to share about my own process in case it might help others.

I’ve got friends who feel they have credible evidence of conspiracy theories. I’ve also got friends who feel convinced that the COVID vaccines are miracles of modern science. Most of my friends land somewhere in between those two positions. But I’ve done a lot of reading on this subject — carefully considering arguments both for and against the vaccines (along with counter-arguments). I accept the idea that it may be decades before we fully understand all the implications of the decisions that we’re making today. Still, I believe the most trustworthy evidence points to the fact that the rewards outweigh the risks.

I felt most persuaded by the realization of potential beneficiaries. That is: who stands to gain or lose the most in the process of vaccination.

Honestly, all of my reasons for why I would not get the vaccine were self-centered. I’m not saying that’s true for everyone who lands on that decision. But when I tried that decision on for size, I thought primarily about short-term discomfort… concern about the potential for long-term health implications… and my ability to go about my life with minimal disruptions regardless of my choice.

On the other hand, most (but not all) of my reasons for why I would get the vaccine were others-oriented. I thought about reducing the danger for at-risk populations… playing my part in the big-picture societal solutions to ending this pandemic… and getting to hang out with my parents again. I admit that I also like some of the personal benefits. Especially feeling more free to travel and meet up with friends and family!

But even these personal / social dynamics that are most appealing to me have a strategic component.

People who don’t want to get the vaccine don’t generally care if I make my own choice for vaccination (as long as I don’t try to force my views on them). On the flip side, people who are in favor of the vaccine care very much if I get vaccinated. So vaccination allows me access to more people. My life and my job are heavily geared towards people, so these strategic implications are significant. And consistent with Christian ideals about becoming “all things to all people.” I understand that not everyone is able to make the same choices that I’m making. But I’m glad that I can.

We’re in a very privileged position, here in the United States. Many others around the world are not even able to make their own choice right now. Some friends in Northern Africa recently told me that they don’t expect to get an opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine until the end of 2021. If they’re lucky. Other friends in Western Europe (i.e. other wealthy, highly-developed democracies) are still experiencing significant societal shut-downs. They expect weeks or possibly even months of waiting before they’ll get their shot at a shot. I was surprised that all of them seem to appreciate (more than resent) the fact that Americans are leading the way in the development and distribution of this COVID-19 vaccine. But they do seem to suggest: “Get your vaccine, so we can get ours.”

So I got the vaccine. It took me about an hour and a half to find an appointment, when my turn came (though the scheduling process has already gotten easier, with increased supply). The process for receiving and recording the vaccination at a local supermarket went surprisingly smoothly. And I’ve had minimal side effects from the shots. I feel elements of both guilt and gratitude because of our privileged position in this fight against this coronavirus. But mostly, I’m at peace with the decision I’ve made. By April 29th (allowing two weeks for full immunization to run its course after the second dose), I’ll be ready to celebrate.

Posted in COVID-19, Culture, Health, Introspection, Recommendations, Social Issues | 2 Comments