Volunteer Vaccine

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Volunteer Vaccine

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My name is Erica Ruhland and I was a senior online during the Covid-19 Pandemic. I live with my two grandparents. Both are in their late 70’s, and because of them, I have been taking the pandemic extremely seriously. This year has been a constant battle of inner turmoil. My moral compass has been spinning for over a year now. The following has been some of the struggles and sacrifices I have made over the course of the year:
Quarantining from my grandparents for 12 days in my room, multiple times
Cutting my work hours to limit possible exposure
Quarantining from my boyfriend for 4 months.

I had several close calls where I had worked with someone who then tested positive for Covid-19. Each time it would send me into an emotional spiral of guilt. Guilt for working in a customer service job. But it was this job that was paying for my school and gave me health insurance. I couldn’t be without health insurance during a pandemic. But I felt a great deal of shame and guilt over my minimum wage job. I had already cut my hours down, but I was stuck between making a living and staying alive. The constant battles with customers, begging with them to put on a mask, or just simply having to nod when they denied Covid’s existence began to take its toll on my soul.
This pandemic has turned me bitter. I have seen too many cruel humans refuse to help their fellow neighbors. A simple mask has the potential to destroy or save my grandpa’s life.
HandsOn Greater Phoenix is a volunteer program that helps find volunteers for several campaigns across the state. They were in charge of organizing the volunteer program for the “Vaccinate State 48” initiative. This is how I got the vaccine. The rule was, you had to volunteer at the State Farm Arena vaccination site for 8 hours and then you could receive the vaccine shot afterwards.
After battling out for a volunteer spot online, I had secured a spot for me to help out on March 9th, 2021. From 6am to 2pm, I stood outside and directed traffic. I was one of the last volunteers people would see. After they received their shot, I would direct their cars out of the massive parking lot. I saw so many older citizens that day. Each time I couldn’t help but think of my own grandparents.
As I waited in line, sitting in my car after volunteering, I felt a huge wave of emotion. It was a mixture of exhaustion, relief, fear, and joy. I started talking to the nurse and I told her that I was nervous for the shot but also really happy. This is when I began to tear up and cry. After the shot, I felt a huge weight lifted from me. All the sacrifices I had made to keep myself and my family safe, they were worth it. I had done my part to help not just myself or my loved ones, but my community, strangers that I may never meet again.
My moral compass aligned North once more. I felt validated. I used the small power I have to effect a big change in my community. My bitterness began to fade. Even now, a month later, I still think about the other volunteers, they all believed we were helping effect great change and saving people. It was like a religion. I had been baptized with the vaccine. On that day I felt like I belonged to a church, preaching to the community. Our sermons were us showing the elders where to drive, and how to schedule their next dose. Our gospel was Phfizer and we sent missionaries out to spread the good news. My sign of piety was the sunburn on my neck where I had forgotten sunscreen and my vaccine papers. This sense of purpose and passion is I’m sure the driving force behind every religion.
This pandemic has shown me the worst of people. I will not forget it.
This pandemic has shown me the great lengths I and others will go to, to protect their community. I will never forget that. There is strength in a common goal. Vaccinate Sate 48.

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This item was submitted on April 22, 2021 by Erica Ruhland using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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