A text popped up on my phone sent by an excited daughter who wanted to share good news from Broad Streeter Dr. Carol Greco (Delaney). With a needle actively being stuck in her arm, she’s taking a selfie with her other arm. She’s masked, but I have never seen eyes smile so wide. This was the first Broad Streeter I saw getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
I had a lot of feelings about the vaccine, and I began to process them.
Not really, I know I will get my turn, and I work safely alone with my pod, so I can safely set that one aside.
A little white, first-world guilt. This will linger. Mission co-worker Rev. Jed Koball in Peru has brought to light what it means to be a country that is “vaccine rich”.
He wrote, “Thinking a lot about frontline/healthcare workers here in Peru. Despite 9 months of negotiations with pharmaceuticals and labs, we learned yesterday that the government of Peru has still not been able to seal a deal on any vaccine. It’s not that they don’t have the money or the logistical capability to manage the vaccines, it’s that the “first world” countries have been like hoarders in a hurricane. Yes, they helped underwrite the expedited timeline, for which the world is grateful, and yes their frontline workers are absolutely deserving of the vaccine right now. I am very happy for those who can go to work with a bit more peace of mind. I just can’t help but also think of those here in Peru (and most of the world) who live in a bit more precarious situations (Peru still has the 3rd highest mortality rate in the world from COVID-19 and one of the hardest-hit economies). Reading reports that most of the US could be vaccinated by June while frontline workers here will just be getting started with vaccinations (assuming things go to plan) comes with a lot of intense mixed emotions. 2021 is going to be an interesting year, to say the least. God bless us all. May we learn to hold these disparate realities in our hearts and treat one another with grace and gratitude.”
So, so much gratitude fills my heart for those who continue to work diligently as front-line workers in the face of big risks and many sacrifices. I’ll never understand what this feels like or how this experience has changed them, so I simply try to live in a way that responds to their pleas for us to travel less, mask more, and stay home.
But the biggest feeling I get from vaccine photos is hope. Hope to pass the peace, hope to hear the Broad Street choir sing together again, hope to worship shoulder to shoulder with you, and hope to high five and hug the children of our church. I texted a handful of medical workers of the church and asked when their vaccine appointments were and for photos, and the week following Christmas my phone was filled with photos of band-aids of hope. It’s overwhelmingly emotional, and my biggest emotion is hope.
I read a New York Times opinion article reflecting on the vaccine selfies by Daniela J. Lamas, a critical-care physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. The article was subtitled “The selfies of health care workers getting vaccines can’t cure infections, but they may provide hope where supplies are sparse,” and here are some excerpts:
Early in the pandemic — watching people refuse to wear masks, assuming that youth or good health would keep them safe — I believed that fear was the only way to change behavior. If only you could see what it is to be intubated, if you could conceive of being suctioned through a tracheostomy tube while learning to walk again, you might make different choices. Surely, I thought, the fear that you might sicken your parent or spouse or child would be enough to motivate you to take precautions, no matter how lonely you were. But now, as people congregate because they are just so exhausted by the loneliness and the waiting, I wonder whether hope is actually a more powerful tool.
Maybe that is the real promise of the vaccine photos. It is not just a way to celebrate science or to encourage the public to get the vaccine when they are able. It’s also a tangible sign of hope, however fragile. For most of the country, the vaccine is still months away. And now, with headlines about the wealthy trying to pay to jump the line, and images of politicians getting vaccinated before many nursing home residents, it is so easy for some to fear that their time will never come. The vaccine selfies tell us to hold on.
We know this dichotomy of fear vs. hope. At Broad Street Presbyterian Church, we find God’s hope a compelling story on its own, and one that we want to be a part of. Hope is foundational to my faith. And these last few weeks, I’ve been envisioning hope in the shape of a Band-Aid.
Dr. Lamas continues to write,
I think of this now, touching the Band-Aid on my arm. Though we do not yet know whether the vaccine prevents us from infecting others, and we will continue to wear masks for the foreseeable future, we can envision a world where a family dinner or a hug will not cost people their lives. A nurse stops in front of me, asking if I have waited the full 15 minutes. I tell her that I feel fine, as if nothing happened, and she schedules me to receive a second dose in three weeks. I start to put on my jacket, readying to head out of the hospital and into the snow, and then I think better of it. I take out my phone, pull up my sleeve and take a photo.
Hold on friends, have hope. God is with us.
- What feelings are you experiencing with the rollout of the vaccine?
- Where are you experiencing hope these days?
-Written by Brittany Porch
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