“Trapped on a Ledge, a Guy Prayed, and…”

Question: What is the proper attire for a person attending a mask-burning event?

Answer: a smile.

I laughed when I learned that our local senior citizens’ center was hosting a “mask-burning” a few weeks ago. It was partly “tongue in cheek.” Ditching your mask is very helpful if you’d like folks to know that your tongue is in your cheek.

Those good folks really weren’t engaging in civil disobedience, thumbing their noses, or extending lengthy middle fingers toward anyone—except the blasted COVID-19 virus. Though they did burn some of those annoying masks (good riddance!), their meeting was mainly an opportunity to get together (getting together, we now realize, is a fine blessing) and get a report on our community’s latest virus statistics. (Unfortunately, I was out of town, or my lighter and I would’ve joined in.)

The short version is—here’s my take on it—in our community right now, you’d have to be pretty serious about catching the virus even if you wanted it. For weeks now, our case numbers have been from none to a handful.

Why? No surprise, mostly because of vaccinations. In conjunction with our local medical and other authorities, our senior center was instrumental in helping get vaccinations to around 3,000 folks. For us, that’s a big bunch.

I wondered how they could possibly get computer chips in that many doses. I was quite concerned about one of the known side effects, that pregnant women who were vaccinated had a high likelihood of giving birth to naked babies.

Okay, the last paragraph is tongue in cheek. But, seriously, I’m button-bustin’ proud of how our community handled the vaccinations.

Remember the old joke about the fellow trapped on a ledge who prayed to God for help? It’s told in a hundred varied versions, but, in most, help arrives, in turn, on a jeep, a boat, and a helicopter with proffered rope ladders, and the guy waves them all off, shouting that he’s waiting on God to save him. After he falls and dies, he complains to the Lord about the Almighty’s absence. And God says, “What do you mean? I sent a jeep, a boat, and a helicopter!”

The vaccine is a rope.

I know. It’s virtually impossible to convince folks whose minds are made up. For me, getting the vaccine brought an incredible sense of relief and no lasting arm harm. I admit that now I can’t bench press 300 pounds. But I never could. A little fever and a day or a few at home would have been a small price to pay.

Everybody I know who has had symptomatic COVID-19 says, usually with deep feeling, “Get the shot!” I don’t personally know anyone—not one person—who has had truly serious side effects from the shots even a smidgeon (medical term) as consequential as those from the real deal virus. (A few years ago, I had a friend who died from the flu vaccine. Sad story. The decision to get it is for me still an easy one. It’s stats, folks, it’s stats.)

But I do know folks who have died from the virus. I’m thinking of yet another one right now hanging on by a thread. And I recently talked to a good friend and pastoral colleague who said he wasn’t sure if he was “madder or sadder” as he’d done a series of funerals for friends and members who thought it wise to wait on or take a pass on the vaccines. Bad enough if they’d just died, but they and their families went through weeks of needless but very real misery before they arrived at the cemetery. Then their families got to continue the grief. For. No. Reason.

I’m told that, across the U.S., 67% of adults are at least partially vaccinated, 47%, fully. I hope those numbers grow quickly.

Life in my community is becoming wonderfully close to “normal.” I like it that way. I still occasionally see someone walking masked in the wide open outdoors. Why? Neurosis?

Still, it’s no time for complacency. The “delta variant” is becoming the dominant strain of the virus, showing increasing numbers in many areas (among the unvaccinated). It’s more contagious and—mark this—connected to worse illness in young adults (who really are not bullet proof). I could give you a list right now of friends I know who have the virus and very much wish they’d taken the vaccine. Is there any good reason to doubt, with the new variant, that our nation will almost certainly see, at the very least, an uptick in cases this fall? To me, this says, roll up your sleeve. Your kids and grandkids need you here and intact. Lots of us love you. And I don’t want to be ticked off at your funeral.

If you choose not to be vaccinated, that is most certainly your right. But you might consider taking a vaccinated person out to lunch or sending them a nice card. You’re counting on them.

Personally, I think I know where the rope is coming from, and I hope you’ll grab on.  Your choice. But not just your consequences.

I’d put my chances of being right on this at about 93.5%. But I could be wrong. And, for my part, we’re still friends.

You’re invited to visit my website, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!

Copyright 2021 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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