Vaccination is going to help us out of this nightmare

In the face of the worst that the universe can throw at us, if we have hope, we can endure

 The world’s scientists and pharmacological production industries have invented and manufactured and tested and had approved several safe and very effective vaccines against this disease. Photograph: iStock

The world’s scientists and pharmacological production industries have invented and manufactured and tested and had approved several safe and very effective vaccines against this disease. Photograph: iStock

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“And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.”
– Amanda Gorman’s The Hill we Climb

Looking back over this terrible year, I can see a very speckled kind of a picture. In the early days, the fear was general and deep, and compliance with regulations was pretty well universal.

Community solidarity was also strong, and there was a sense that we all owed it to each other to support each other from a distance and to respect the rules and everyone else’s space.

Experts became all the rage. We were all tuned in, quite suddenly, to microbiologists, virologists, epidemiologists, immunologists, behavioural scientists.

People are doing more of their shopping locally these days, for example, enjoying the opportunity for a brief chat with the butcher or the greengrocer or a neighbour

The more exposed we were to experts, however, and the more the pandemic dragged on, the more we began to have opinions of our own about “the science”, about the best way to manage the pandemic, about whether we should be allowed this concession or that, and the more distrustful we became not only of the experts and the politicians but also of each other.

It was all the fault of the airlines, we grumbled. It was all the fault of the vintners and the restaurateurs. It was all the fault of the young people. Other people were breaking the rules; we were only bending them. And now it’s all the fault of the variants and it’s all the fault of the EU.

The truth we have to face is that there are no easy answers, from science, from government, from enforcement of regulations, from anywhere. But we are – we have to be – people of hope. In the face of the worst that the universe can throw at us, if we have hope, we can endure.

Evaluate

The last year has challenged us to follow the path of finding hope within ourselves rather than from reports or commentaries, because when we switch off the TV or laptop we have to live the life that is placed before us. We have to live our own life and not someone else’s. We have to evaluate our own situation and meet our own challenges.

The beginning of hope is gratitude, and if we learn, in this situation, how to be grateful for what we have, we will live in hope and at peace. When we had freedom, we were always looking for more; now we have the opportunity to learn to be grateful for what it is that we have.

With the vaccines come more opportunities for discontent

We have all had the experience of having to look life in the eye and ask why should I get up tomorrow? What really, really, motivates me? And yet we do get up and we go on living in hope. I know this, because I see the enormous uptake of the online meditations and other services offered by the Sanctuary. I can see that people are turning to spirituality in these difficult times. This in turn brings me hope, that we can all learn to own the life we live.

And you don’t have to be in a complicated yoga position to live hopefully and with gratitude. We all do it every day. People are doing more of their shopping locally these days, for example, enjoying the opportunity for a brief chat with the butcher or the greengrocer or a neighbour.

We are learning to enjoy the local rather than being distracted by the desire for the global, exploring a park where we might never have walked before, stopping to admire a neighbour’s garden.

Discontent

And now, not only do we have hope as a cast of mind and a way of life: we have very concrete hope that vaccination is going to help us out of this nightmare and allow us to congregate again, to live our lives together and to open up our society and our economy, however gradually.

There are still fears, there are still dangers, there will still be illness and death and separation. The heartbreak isn’t going anywhere – but the fact that the world’s scientists and the world’s pharmacological production industries have invented and manufactured and tested and had approved several safe and very effective vaccines against this disease in a fraction of the time it normally takes to develop such things is astonishing. It is almost miraculous.

With the vaccines come more opportunities for discontent – you’re queue-jumping; I’m in the wrong queue; you promised; it’s not fair. But it is still astonishing, and a huge source of hope for humanity. I am overcome with gratitude to and admiration for the world’s pharmacological community, who have achieved this wonder and have brought this hope to us.

Here in our own kitchens, we experience what the scientists have achieved in an almost impossibly short time. In spite of all the squabbling and the supply-chain breakdowns, vaccination on a wide scale is almost within our grasp.

As the pandemic wore on, it became more real to us. At first it was only numbers who were falling ill; then it started to be people we knew. And it is getting to be like that now too with vaccination. At first it was a concept. Now we all know someone who has been vaccinated at least once. Our hope is being realised.

There will be grieving. There will be retribution. There will be conflict. But there will still be hope.

Sister Stanislaus Kennedy is founder and life president of Focus Ireland

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