February 3rd and 25th will always be special days in my life. These are the days my wife and I received our first and second Covid-19 vaccine injections. We signed up to work two 4-hour shifts at a vaccination center and if there were enough vaccines available, we would be given our injections at the end of the day.
We drove north to a small community center next to a public golf course. The center had been shut down since the beginning of the pandemic but now bustled with people. The fire department, paramedics and police were there to check-in registered people, provide medical assistance, and enforce security. Students from a nearby health school administered the vaccines. Our job was to check the temperatures of people who entered the building, then instruct people where to proceed. It was an efficient operation that was greatly needed and appreciated.
We wore N-95 masks and eye protective gear which became uncomfortable over time. This gave me an even greater appreciation for medical workers. We chatted with firefighters and the police, something that I rarely do and should do more often. They explained the local operation, their jobs, and bits of their life—a typical good natured discussion that we rarely experienced during the past pandemic year. I had a fruitful discussion with the county sheriff chaplain about our mutual experiences in Africa. He has served the county for over 40 years and radiated a calming demeanor that built trust within his community.
After eight hours of work, we were rewarded with our first vaccine injection. It was the first time that I was excited about getting an injection. The young nurse explained the process and the possible side effects, then quickly vaccinated me. I waited for 15 minutes and after there was no anaphylactic shock from the vaccine, happily drove home after my wife received her injection. Three weeks later, we drove through an exposition center and received our second vaccination. We never left our car during the 25-minute process. I am so thankful to all the people who were involved in the worldwide vaccination program. This is truly a modern miracle of community cooperation to end suffering—another step towards the new creation.
In a recent Financial Times (FT) opinion, What the Oddly Uplifting Covid Jab Says About Business Life: Few companies can easily offer meaning and purpose at work but that should not stop them from trying (Pilita Clark, March 21, 2021), I read about the author’s Sunday afternoon visit to a vaccination center to get her Covid vaccine. She lives in the UK where vaccination rates are slightly ahead of the United States. The UK a has national health care system (NHS), so there is no vaccination registration. Individuals received a phone call from their local NHS doctor according to their priority and then reserved a slot. “For almost everyone I know who has had the jab [British expression for shot or injection], the experience has also proved to be something that few of us were expecting: strangely uplifting.” I felt the same way.
Pilita Clark extolled the “chatty volunteers” at the vaccination center: “They could not have been more thoughtful and, outwardly at least, appeared happy to be spending Sunday doing this work.” She related her vaccination center experience to volunteering for 2012 London Olympics that offered “the chance to be part of something that is larger than oneself.” We lived in London during the August 2012 Olympics and witnessed that same spirit from the thousands of British volunteers.
Clark, a business writer, then pivots to corporate workers: “Who among us in the corporate workforce gets up each day expecting anything like that? The dull truth is that sitting in a call center or approving a car loan cannot hope to compete. Yet the idea persists that companies of any sort can—and should—be purpose-driven.” This is where I theologically disagree with her. God does not hierarchically differentiate occupations that serve the community. I am thankful for skilled call center professionals who helped me with technical issues and problem solving. Car loans allow people to buy automobiles that transport people to their occupations, educational institutions, or life sustaining stores. These professions are just as meaningful, and our community needs these competent professionals. Some, if not all, of those medical volunteers and workers were able to be at the vaccination center because of corporate workforces supporting them. There is purpose in all work that benefits the community.
Clark’s opinion was headlined with a photo from a UK vaccination center. As my eyes scanned the photo full of givers and receivers, I suddenly realized that the vaccination center was within a church! There were stained glass windows and gothic stone columns of an English cathedral or parish church in the background. The church serves the community and is a symbol of the purpose-driven life, something that is infinitely greater than our finite human lives. It offers hope to the hopeless and love to the unloved. All are welcome—just like the NHS vaccination program. It offers a quiet space for all to gather, roll up their sleeves, and receive an uplifting injection. One location offers both physical and spiritual hope. “Few groups can offer the meaning and purpose of a vaccination center.” The Church offered even more.