Let me say from the outset that I do truly believe in vaccines. When I think of before the 1900s began, where if someone were to become deathly sick, you had the option of giving them weak tea, dabbing their forehead with a cold compress or worse, putting leeches on them to help “bleed out” the bad blood, I’m kind of glad I was born a bit later. Two good friends of mine contracted polio when they were children, and they have lived their entire lives with limited mobility. The father of another friend contracted meningitis as a boy, and survived, but lost his hearing. So, the idea of rolling up your sleeve and having someone stick you with a little thin needle is only a momentary point of discomfort when compared to a lifetime of disability, or worse.
I remember when both boys were little – even babies – and the time came for them to get that salvo of shots to ward off the childhood diseases – diseases that, even when I was a small child, we just assumed were part of growing up. Who didn’t get the measles, or chicken pox, and in some cases, whooping cough? I do remember they were working pretty hard to give us vaccines to help with some maladies, like the polio medicine, that you took orally – always a nicer option. I also belong to the generation that endured the smallpox vaccination, which really consisted of them poking a little needle just under the surface of the skin and depositing an actual bit of the disease there. After a couple of days, it would get incredibly itchy, which of course your parents told you not to scratch, but when you are little, scratching wins. The scab that followed was also itchy, and when it fell off, for most of us, it left a little round scar for a lifetime, evidence that we were part of that time in history. Amazingly, smallpox is believed to be eradicated across the earth, so the company that made the vaccine stopped the production, and generations that followed ours never had to receive the “shot.”
I mentioned before that when the boys in the early 90s got chicken pox, Mom was visiting us, and I asked her about my bout with the pox. Her reply was, “Well, the other kids had pretty good outbreaks” (meaning my six brothers and sisters) but you only had ONE POCK on the back of your neck. That information called into question whether I had ever truly gotten chicken pox, but I let it go – until, of course, someone started talking about “shingles.”
Now that I am a big boy, and old enough (insert “old” here), “they” – whoever “they” are decided I could go ahead and get “the shot” to keep me from getting shingles, supposedly. So, I had gotten one kind of shingles shot, but then after that happened, they decided it was kind of a “crap shoot” as to whether it worked, so they rolled out a new, 2-shot vaccine that they promised would work just find. Why is it that everything seems like two shots these days? Anyway, I then got the first of the two shots back in February, and was all ready to get the second one, but then I had to get the CoVid double, and that meant I had to wait to get the second shingles – everything in order, but today I was eligible, so I went ahead and had it shoved into my muscle tissues.
By my count, then, over the last year or so, I have been shot up 8 times in the medical industry’s efforts to bring some kind of pain to my upper arms, I guess. I am now vaccinated against tetanus, the flu, hepatitis B, Covid, pneumonia and now shingles. I do believe that completes the “geezer” shots needed to make it through my early senior years. I am invulnerable! Sort of. I’m sure they will come up with yet another shot that is a “must have” before long – the dance goes on.
Again, please hear – I am not complaining, and shots have never really bothered me, either in getting them, or in the aftermath. We will see what today brings, but right now, I can’t even feel where in my left arm I was shot. (I had them do the left arm, just for fun – the right one was having all attention.)
It is too bad they can’t come up with a vaccine against some of the other troubles that humans go through in their lives. Of course, a shot that would make you content with being alone would be huge for both teenagers and the elderly. How about one that makes sure that you only eat just what you need to maintain a perfect weight? How about one that promises that all the dreams you have at night will just be happy, and last until daybreak? There is certainly room for a vaccine that ensures that, when you are old, and geezerly, you can still get out of bed and have your hips, knees, ankles and feet feel just fine.
I’m guessing none of that is going to happen soon. I don’t want to alter my consciousness, but you know, the shots we take to make sure something ominous doesn’t reach in and grab our future are important enough to receive. How about a shot that makes sure that no matter who you are, you always have enough to eat? Or one that keeps you always safe from the threat of war or oppression? We could even throw one in that promises love and respect, and joy.
If only life were as simple as a shot. However, we all know that much more effort is required than just showing our upper arm. Our lives of joy require us to live and focus our attention on the things that matter, on what we have and are, and not what we seem to be missing. It takes a completely different effort to live a significant life, instead of only one that is manufactured with a serum and a shot needle.
Perhaps the very first step comes in setting aside the question of “what I need” to have an abundant life, with all my dreams coming true, and instead ask, “What does my neighbor need, my family need, my friend need, that I am able to offer from the rich depth of the love God has already given to me?
The fairy tale of Oz ends up with Dorothy finally understanding that she had the power to go home all along with her ruby slippers. In our very real world, we too have the power to find joy inside of us all along. Instead of something being placed in our bloodstream, it is for you and me to open up and give away what is already inside our hearts – the love of Christ and the love for each other. Then we find we truly are invincible.
Word of the day: scruple. Pronounced SKREW-pul. It’s a great example of how words start off in one direction, but then take a much larger swath. A “scruple,” was once a measurement in apothecaries, when they would mix up medicines. The measurement was 20 grains of a substance. Just a little bit. Back in Roman times, a “scruple” found its measurement in a small pebble that perfectly balanced the weight of a substance of 20 grains on a scale.
The word, scrupus, then became known for a pebble, or some other kind of small sharp stone.
Here’s the jump: the orator Cicero talked about the uneasy pricking of a conscience when one had either done something wrong, or was caught up in a dilemma of sorts. He related that to having to walk around with a pebble in your shoe, or sandal. That small “scrupus” was enough to make the entire walk uncomfortable. Very soon, the word broke off to also mean the meticulous nature of maintaining a strong ethic – or of always being aware of the “scruples” that were in your shoe, or your life.
It’s not that an “unscrupulous” person has no kinds of pebbles – it’s that they ignore them, as if a conscience, like a small stone, doesn’t matter.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.