by Melanie Gruenwald
V is for vaccine.
For vulnerability. For victory.
For a virus that does not want to be recognized.
Every conversation I have lately, seems to have the common theme- are you vaccinated, when are you getting vaccinated, where are you on ‘the list,’ how are you feeling if you have been vaccinated, and is there even enough to go around? You’re likely familiar with the ensuing conversations- about envisioning a return to “normalcy,” will we still need to wear masks, can we carry the virus even if we’re vaccinated, does it make the rest of my family any safer, and so on…
I am teaching the KE class on Metaphors this semester. This ongoing awareness of metaphors, the stories manifesting in our lives, has me reflecting, “What is it about our constant engagement with the COVID vaccine that reflects our personal and communal metaphors?”
My sense is that many of us feel that we were caught unaware when the pandemic shifted our expectations, hopes and vision for 2020. We feel vulnerable, exposed, and nervous with the unfamiliar, unpredictable, uncharted nature of living through a pandemic. I know I certainly feel that way. COVID wiped away a sense of security and stability.
Along with COVID, our nation experienced insecurity through other establishments that we believed to be unshakeable. We have lived through a tumultuous political transition, an insurrection on our Capitol, and a season of violence.
The stability and predictability of life vanished in the early weeks of March, 2020.
With the vaccine, we are grasping to regain a sense of control, normalcy, and protection.
The COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies to build immunity, without us actually getting the disease. When we get COVID or a vaccine, our body develops T-lymphocytes, a type of defensive white blood cell, which contains “memory” on how to defend against the virus.
The vaccine does not represent “just” a layer of protection from COVID. The vaccine gives us hope (finding light in the darkness!). The vaccine, as a metaphor, becomes a response all of the things we feel like we lost when COVID emerged. The vaccine represents connection, community, normalcy, and familiarity.
I would like suggest that the metaphor for the vaccine, is one security and stability. It represents the T-cell memory, of ‘never again.’ It helps to defend not only against the virus- but all that the virus represents. It reflects strength and steadiness, not just in light of COVID, but in response to the chaos we feel in our world.
Getting the vaccine might feel like a step towards regaining normalcy. It is not a magic bullet, yet it is movement in the right direction.
I’m guessing that somewhere in our guts, we believe that a system that can provide vaccines, efficiently, and effectively, can also be a system that can stabilize democracy, equity, and security.
May we each work to manifest the change, the strength, the stability, and the security that we hope for. A shot (or two!) in the arm, isn’t going to build the society for which we strive. Rather, it is each of us to take action, and assume personal and communal responsibility.
And may we all be able to receive the vaccine, swiftly and safely, in the days, weeks and months ahead.