Never in a million years would I think to link a vaccine to sports or to spirituality. But then again, never in my life would I expect to be excited to receive a vaccine. And, yet the old adage rings true: never say never. Never!
On Saturday February 20, 20201 I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Oakland Coliseum. Whether or not you live in Alameda County, those over the age of 65 as well as teachers can receive the vaccine with or without an appointment. Walk-ups are welcome. Thank you Pfizer and thank you FEMA!
I took the 66th Street exit and entered through the same gates that have brought me to countless Warriors' basketball, Athletics' baseball and even a few Raiders' football games. I have paid my $20 to park in that same lot for Springsteen and Justin Timberlake concerts. I have tailgated in that space for many a Bay Bridge series. This space is not new to me and yet, as I made my way through the maze of cones, directed by men and women in fatigues with F.E.M.A. on their back, I realized the gravity of this particular moment.
As I inched my Jeep closer to the vaccination tent, I was overcome with emotion—relief, joy, gratitude. For some reason, I was able to see it for what is was: a moment in American history. I arrived to this place with the burden of loss— of rituals and traditions, people and places we will see no more, but ready to turn the page. There was a current of hope among the workers—talking, mingling, directing and assisting all of us. I knew people would be talking about this moment—that I would be talking about this moment for years to come.
When it was time for my vaccine, I offered my right arm. My dominant side gets a lot more movement thanks to my golf game. The staff on hand was excited to learn I teach and coach at Saint Francis High School. I shared that students returned this past week and my girls' golf season started two weeks ago. They loved hearing the good news.
I asked the nurse what time she started working. When she told me she started at 8 a.m. and was done at 7 p.m. I promised myself I would pray for her and the countless other men and women working long days—many who do so in inclement weather—so that our country can heal, recover, reopen and stay healthy.
The van in front of me had five people in it, so I couldn't move forward to the zone where cars must wait for 15 minutes after vaccination. Instead, I was able to talk to the CalFire man who was assisting the nurse. He told me a little bit about what the last year has entailed for him. He admitted that summers are exceptionally hard now, given the reality and extent of wildfires. He added that after fires, they have worked overtime due to flooding and now this. He wasn't complaining, he was simply telling the truth. I listened and when it came time for me to pull ahead he said "It was nice talking to you. Thanks for what you do." I don't think a side effect of the vaccine is instant tears to eyes but that happened. He thanked ME for what I do. Wait, what? Maybe that's America at its best.
A friend and I have debated whether or not to tell people we have been vaccinated. Why? Folks are frustrated with how to access the system and injustices abound. My own mom who is 78 has yet to receive hers. I don't want to dismiss the reality and challenges that too many face in the process….and yet, I want offer a suggestion.
Let us encourage one another. Let us celebrate the success of each vaccine as it is administered. Let us cast off judgment if but for one moment, for those who are able to get and receive Moderna, Pfizer and those to come. Let us remind each other—more help is on the way. In time, we all can move our vehicles forward, offer our dominant or non-dominant arm and get the one shot Bill Russell said he won't block.
I hear all the time that people hadn't thought of the connection between sports and spirituality, until I call it to their attention. Prior to yesterday, I would have never seen the connection between a shot and spirituality. However, heading into a space sacred for so many different sports—for cause much bigger and better—I couldn't help but realize the gift being given, made possible by many hands and willing hearts.