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What the world needs now

Were my father, the late great Champ Ruffin, around to participate in a discussion about people refusing to get vaccinated against COVID, I imagine he would tell one of his favorite stories. He’d say, ‘This fellow wrote a letter to his sweetheart. It said, ‘˜Darling, I love you so much that for you, I’d climb the highest mountain, I’d swim the deepest ocean, and I’d cross the widest desert. And I’ll see you Saturday night’”unless it’s raining.” Then he’d cackle. His story would have made his point, which is that love requires more than nice words and good intentions’”it causes us to demonstrate our love through action. I want to make the story’s lesson more specific: love should compel us to get the COVID vaccine. We can and should demonstrate our love for each other by getting vaccinated. I will admit that I don’t always practice what I preach, but this time I have. I have received both doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine. If and when a booster shot is recommended, I will take it too. Let me add that I think that everyone who doesn’t have a legitimate medical reason for not being vaccinated should be. I say that out of concern for you. I say it out of concern for us’”for all of us. I think’”I hope’”that I say this first and foremost as a Christian. I try my best to follow Jesus. I often fail. But I am always aware of and trying to move toward the goals that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament set before me. One of the basic goals is that I am to love other people. I am to put the needs of others ahead of my own needs. Jesus doesn’t let me distinguish between who does and doesn’t deserve my love. He says that I am to love even my enemies. So, let me say to those of you who will regard me as an enemy for what I’m saying here, I love you too. Because I love you, I want you to get vaccinated. I don’t want anyone’”family members, friends, acquaintances, foes’”to catch a disease they could have avoided or to die before they have to. But I also say what I’m saying as a human being. I suspect that I would have willingly gotten vaccinated even if I weren’t a Christian. It’s hard for me to think in those terms when being Christian is so basic to my identity. But I think that love should motivate all of us, no matter our race, gender, or religion, to get the vaccine. You see, we are all members of the same community: the community of humankind. We are all connected to each other. We are all in this together. All indications are that the best chance we have to beat this pandemic is for as many people as possible to be immunized. We should do it because we care about all human beings, be they our own family members or people on the other side of the world. This is a situation where what is best for each of us’”the vaccine can protect us from getting sick or from getting a serious case of COVID’”is also best for all of us’”if all of us who get vaccinated do so, we can stem the spread of the disease. Sometimes love compels us to choose what is best for others over what is best for ourselves. We don’t have to make such a choice in this case’”getting vaccinated is best for all of us. We hear some talk about whether the vaccine should be mandated. Whether it should or shouldn’t be is a complicated question. But I’ll say this: if we really love each other, it shouldn’t have to be.

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