Getting vaccinated in Grand Rapids

It is so encouraging to see what people can do when there is a sense of unity in mission. Twelve thousand shots administered yesterday at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. I got one of them from a young man in camo fatigues who greeted me with “My name is Zach and I’ll be your medic today.”

So many volunteers. The full article says there were 600 people working, around half of whom were volunteers. Many of them were seniors. Many were much younger. From the entry to the parking garage, into the underground foyer for temp check, up the stairs to the main level, through a door, around a corner, up a ramp, through a long lobby, a turn into another cast lobby, into an exhibit hall, turn there, snaking procession between ropes, through a door into another hall. At every turn a volunteer pointing the way, smiling, thanking me for coming (!). Long lines, I guess, but moving briskly, no sense of waiting around, all movement.

Nearing ground zero: A volunteer explained the process, handed me my papers. Rows of computer terminals for final check-in. Long rows of curtained compartments. Zach—efficient but polite and somehow working fast without seeming the least bit rushed. Then down to the large waiting area. A sea of chairs like the dots in a large dot-boxing puzzle. A large digital clock on a display up front so you could easily track your fifteen minutes. When you stand up and walk away you look back and see a retired man with a disinfecting wipe, as unobtrusive and as quick as a footman in one of those British miniseries, not making eye contact, homing in on your chair and wiping it down.

West Michigan, or we could say the human race, has its shadow side, and we have seen plenty of that in the news. Yesterday I saw the sunny side in the flesh. Can-do. Will-do. Purpose. Unity. No friction. No resistance. No resentment. No compulsion. “Thank you” in all directions. All yes. Zero no. This is how it should be. This is how it can be. This is how it was yesterday at DeVos Place.

(Incidentally, this is what the name “DeVos” meant for years in Grand Rapids and could mean again.)

But I must also say this: I didn’t see anyone who wasn’t white-Anglo-Euro like me. There are lots of over-50 Latinx people in Grand Rapids. Where were they? Or the African Americans? Or the Asian refugees? So easy for me to use my computer or my other computer or my phone or my iPad or my iPhone to sign up and sign in, so easy to take the time off from work, to decide which car to drive into the city and into DeVos Place parking, to carry my ID in my pocket (never had to show it, but didn’t know that going in), to trust the clean-cut white soldier with the needle without even having it occur to me until the next day that I had zero problem trusting the soldier with the needle, that I have in 60 years never been given the slightest reason to doubt even fleetingly that I can entrust my life to the young white man in the uniform with the needle.

And I think of my old friend in Eritrea. When will he get his vaccine? How many have died in Asmara? Is he even still there? My friend in the Congo. All the majority-world countries. Canada, for crying out loud? What have we done to get vaccines to them? Or have we blocked them out to make it easy and safe for me?

Three weeks till dose two. I am so grateful. I am also uneasy. How will we perpetuate the yes, share the yes?

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