I am Conservative. I am vaccinated.

I hate talking about politics. I always have. Ironically, I now host a weekly Op/Ed Hour on Saturday mornings for the Georgia Radio Reading Service. I make it a personal goal for my listeners to not be able to tell my bias or leanings from my selection of local, state, and national news sources. I am charged with presenting differing viewpoints from a wide range of topics and sources. I am also an Enneagram 9–The Peacemaker. This means that I strive to find commonality among us. I seek out the middle road. I want to build bridges and tear down walls. I just want to love people. Putting this information out there terrifies me because I hate conflict like the plague. Hmm…that was an interesting word choice, Melissa.

Our local hospital, Habersham Medical Center, has recently been charged with complying with the new federal mandate for vaccinating all employees (and volunteers and other stake holders entering the hospital). Yesterday, I accepted the role of interim Chair of the HMC Foundation at the hospital, so this includes me and my fellow board members. On December 6, 2021 any employee who has not received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine will not be able to return to work. When I heard this news, my heart was in my throat. What’s going to happen? As a Christian, I have to trust that God has this. This will put the healthcare of this community and our nation in great jeopardy. God has this. What is my responsibility? Let them hear your heart.

I made the decision to get vaccinated this August. My husband, Kevin, without any prompting from me, was close behind. Our older sons, ages 15 and 12 at the time were considered fully vaccinated before Edwin’s 16th birthday at the beginning of October. Neither of them missed a beat. My little ones, ages 5 and 7 have received their first dose. They will receive their second on November 30–my 46th birthday. Morgan (5) was tired and his arm was sore. Lillie (7) showed no side effects.

All six of us had COVID at the end of February 2021–just in time for Mont’s 12th birthday and spring break. None of us could taste his birthday cake and my four kids spent the evening sucking lemons over the kitchen sink marveling that they could not taste them. We had to cancel our trip to the beach. Our cases were very mild compared to most; not really any fevers or any respiratory symptoms at all. The brain fog was real, however, and it impacted my voice for quite awhile for recording. The most serious lasting effect of the virus on us was with Mont; he still has not regained his sense of smell after nine months. Thankfully, my 71-year-old mom who lives with us did not catch COVID. She stayed isolated in her downstairs apartment. Mom got her vaccine early in the game. Her age, of course, puts her at high risk; she also has COPD.

Like many in our community, we did not initially want the vaccine. We had the virus; we survived it. We had antibodies. I certainly never would have believed that I would have vaccinated my children. So, what changed my mind? For one thing, I got tired of reading about people dying and feeling helpless. I was worried about exposing my mom or our babysitter Lauryn, a Type-1 diabetic, unintentionally to the virus. If my family was responsible for spreading this to someone we loved and they died, I could never forgive myself. What about the people outside of our little bubble, though? What about teachers and kids at our school? What about customers in our store? What about people we meet out and about anywhere that we may want to stop and talk with, share space with, laugh with, cry with? What if I unintentionally got someone I didn’t know sick and they died? Am I responsible if I didn’t do what I could to prevent it? Instead of feeling the need to protect Me and Mine, my heart shifted to protecting everyone.

My kids got vaccines as infants. I held out on a couple of the hepatitis shots until much later (not until they were required to get into school) for three of my four. I reasoned that they weren’t going to be going to any third world countries, exposed to fecal-containing water, or sharing needles with anyone anytime soon. For most of these vaccines, though, I didn’t give them a second thought. I trusted the science that went before me. I trusted the protection that was provided through my parents’ and grandparents’ generations. I remember marveling at my mom’s circle scar on her bicep as a little girl–a lasting reminder that small pox is no longer a threat to my own children. We all had chicken pox as kids. It was a right-of-passage. Now, my kids have been vaccinated against that as well. For those who chose not to vaccinate their kids, there is no real fear of their children contracting these diseases. Their kids are protected by the fact that the majority of those who went before them were vaccinated. This assured that this generation of children, vaccinated or not, will not be crippled by polio. This is the power of the herd.

After all of that, I want to say that I see You. I understand the hold out; I appreciate the fear of being controlled by the government. I hear pastors directly warning us of the Mark of the Beast. Is there anything scarier than that? Who wants to think that they have accepted the Devil’s mark on their body? I’ve seen all the social media posts, too. Sterilization. Early menopause. This side of the coin is promoting its own version of fear.

Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

Selfishly, I want to travel again. I want to see the world and I want my kids to see it with me. We are going on a cruise over Christmas. Everyone onboard is required to be both vaccinated and tested before sailing. (Children under 12 were exempt, but required two additional tests for a total of three. This is why I pushed to have mine fully vaccinated by our travel date.) Both of my older sons are traveling over spring break–Edwin to Cairo, Egypt and Mont to Catalina Island, CA. Covid and vaccination status are the reality of the world that we live in and I decided to jump through this hoop.

Hear me. You, however, should be free to make a different choice. This is the United States of America.

I want both. I want it all. I want peace. I want this virus to go away and all those taken by it to be back with us. I want seniors and the critically ill to feel safe out in the world. I want doctors and nurses to want to continue saving lives. I want people on the other side of the world to have access to the healthcare that we take for granted. I want you to be okay with me if I choose to vaccinate my kids or if tell you that I am a conservative. I am empowered to be BOTH…and so are You. It’s ok, Friend. I will still love you tomorrow if you choose to hold out or if you jump in. Your vaccine status has no effect on my feelings for you. More than what you think of me, though, I care what God thinks of me. I don’t believe that He loves me any more or any less based on my vaccination status or my political leanings. I am saved by grace through faith and I am clinging to this truth today. The God of the Universe loves me and He’s got this!

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