When I was little, there were so-called “childhood diseases.” The list is actually pretty long, but I remember that the Big Four were mumps, measles, German measles (rubella), and chicken pox. It was pretty much expected that most all children would get these sooner or later. In fact, especially with chicken pox, when a child would come down with it, the mothers around the neighborhood would often get all their children together for a “chicken pox party,” in hopes of infecting the entire neighborhood and getting it done with! When our sons came down with chicken pox in the early 90s, Mom was visiting with us at that time, and I asked her how my own chicken pox infection went, since Aaron had big pox sores, and Adam’s looked like a near sunburn with little blotches all over. Mom’s reply – to my continuing concern – was, “Oh, the other kids had it pretty bad, but you only had one little sore on the back of your neck!” To this day, I don’t know if that was “good enough” or if I really am susceptible to a virus even at my advanced age…
Once, as I was reading the book containing the letters that John and Abigail Adams wrote to each other while he was at the Continental Congress, and she was up with the family in Boston, they described a time when smallpox was running rampant in the northern colonies. Abigail relates in the letters that she took the five children with her to a “smallpox house.” It was there that a doctor would make a small slice in the upper arm of the patient, and then lay one thread in the cut that had been taken from a blanket infected with smallpox. It was then packed with a poultice, and then it was a matter of time to see whether the infection had taken, and moved into the patient’s system. Apparently there were three possibilities: it would either not infect the person at all, in which case, they would make another cut in the other arm and try to reinfect; or the smallpox would kill the infected person; or they would go through a lesser attack of the disease, and as a result would hopefully have lifetime immunity. Imagine risking your children with that treatment. Of course, later on, scientists discovered they could use cowpox disease as a vaccine, without having to introduce the actual smallpox to the patient.
Truth be told, the smallpox “vaccine” protocol was the first in history. Another account relates the time when the doctor who attended to Catherine the Great of Russia had a horse and carriage waiting on the ready as he gave the Tsarina of Russia the same treatment, in case things went south, and she were to die. Makes you want to go to medical school, doesn’t it?
As we have moved into now the third century of vaccinations, we have seen so many otherwise death-guaranteeing diseases conquered, or at least contained by the use of pharmaceuticals. Cholera, rabies, tetanus typhoid fever, bubonic plague all were controlled before 1900. I remember when our whole family moved to Australia for two years with Dad’s assignment to the Royal Australian Air Force, that we had immunizations for typhoid fever and typhus when we got back to the states. Basically, what they did was give us a shot in each arm, and over the course of the next couple of days, it felt as though our arms were going to completely fall off. We couldn’t move them more than a few inches – how lovely that would have been, for Mom to have (at that time) six whining children…
In the 1920s, probably as a result of the Spanish Flu, great research produced vaccines for tuberculosis, diphtheria, scarlet fever, whooping cough, yellow fever and typhus, my good friend. In the 30s, they did finally produce the vaccine for influenza and encephalitis. It wasn’t until 1952, however, that Jonas Salk first produced the vaccine against polio, and then soon after, Dr. Sabin created the oral vaccine which made it available worldwide.
By the way, in the 60s and on to today, vaccines have been created for measles, mumps rubella, pneumonia, meningitis, hepatitis, chicken pox, Lyme disease, malaria, dengue fever and Ebola. That’s a bunch of diseases, folks – and a huge group of cures. I still have my little yellow shot card, listing the kinds and dates of immunizations. The boys’ cards, of course, are filled with many more: MMR, diphtheria, hepatitis and Hep-B meningitis, HPV, and of course, polio. The medical field sees no need to do the smallpox vaccine anymore – it has been basically eradicated worldwide. Still, most of my generation still bears the little round scar on the upper arm, where the vaccine was scratched into our skin, which then created an itchy scab, that of course, we scratched off before we should, which then left a scar for life.
Let me say that, no matter how much they are paid, I don’t think the folks who work on and eventually produce a vaccine are paid enough. It truly has been a world-changing human improvement to discover – not a cure – but a prevention from a disease in the first place.
It was announced today that a pharmaceutical company has created a vaccine for coronavirus that in its phase 3 trial with a large number of volunteers, was 90% effective against the virus. It’s curious, but not surprising, that the stock market is up over 1500 points. The promise of a vaccine which makes it possible to remove the restrictions surrounding schools and universities, businesses, clinics, travel, gatherings, sports, and churches – all aspects of “normal” life that we may be able to return to, somehow, makes this the best Christmas gifts our world may receive.
I invite you, if you have not already done so, to enfold the upcoming work of approval, manufacturing and especially distribution in prayer in these coming weeks. Thank God for the skilled researchers, and for guiding their hands and minds to create this new thing. Ask God to both bless the folks who are currently ill with this pandemic, and to grant peace and eternal life to those who died because of it. We have 52 days until 2021 begins. Let’s leave all this to the history books, and thank God for tomorrow.
Word for the day: eunoia. It’s pronounced you-NOI-ya. It is also the shortest word in the English language to contain all five vowels. However, that’s not what makes it such a nice word to know and share. It comes, like it sounds, from the Greek, almost without change, except that it doesn’t include the Greek alphabet. Eu, meaning “good,” and noos, meaning “mind or spirit.” One definition says it means “beautiful thinking,” or “good mind,” and refers to the sense of balance and health inside one’s own brain.
Another, and I believe even nicer definition is that it refers to the kind of relationship that exists between a speaker or writer and his/her audience. Almost that each side wishes the other well – there’s a good feeling and a sense of joy and respect given to each side. I’ve read books and articles where it sure felt as though the writer cared about me, and I’ve been to talks, or meetings led by someone who not only enjoys what they are doing, but enjoys the audience, and it was clear the listeners truly enjoyed and “wished well” the speaker. It’s one more of those nice words.
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.