Dear Decaturish – Call on your ‘crossover friends’ to spread the word about COVID-19Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Mallory Gray draws up a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during DeKalb Pediatric Center’s vaccine clinic on May 12, 2021. On May 10, 2021 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents age 12 through 15. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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I recently had a really good conversation with an old friend. This may not seem interesting on its face, but in this day and age, it’s a unicorn. I’m a progressive, atheist Democrat who is a doctor, strongly supports universal masking and COVID vaccination, and lives in a big city. My friend is a white, evangelical Christian, right-leaning type, who has lived in Newton County, GA and recently moved to Tennessee. We met several years ago through work and have stayed friends ever since. If all you did was read the internet or watch the news, you’d think we would have fallen out a long time ago.
But we didn’t. When controversial issues came up that we cared about, we talked about it- with each other. We listened. We didn’t always agree. Sometimes, my friend would protect me if someone on social media from her “world” tried to jump on me. She’d preface a post by saying, “Before you get angry or say something nasty, Betsy is a friend of mine and a good person, and I respect her.” This worked remarkably well at stopping really negative comments and personal attacks. Granted, I didn’t know what other shot blocking she was doing behind the scenes, but what I could see was very respectful and set a tone of respect. I tried to mirror this by making sure I was being respectful and not attacking anyone personally, even when I was challenging a point of view.
I call her my “crossover” friend. Of everyone I know, she’s one of the few people who doesn’t socialize in the same circles or live nearby. She and I do not share religions. We inhabit different worlds and are exposed to very different types of people. What brings us together is that we are very caring and genuine with each other. We respect each other and want each other to be happy and successful. We give space for being different. We don’t rush or make ultimatums for our friendship.
My friend sent me a link to a live news event for the Newton County Chamber of Commerce where local hospital leaders were discussing the recent COVID surge and that hospitals were all full. I watched a few minutes while trying to prepare dinner and entertain my 5 year old. My friend brought up how “unreal” the surge was. I told her we were entering scary times again and I was so glad she and her husband were vaccinated (they had hesitated but ultimately got it). We both expressed exasperation with the situation and then she said she’d pray for us.
I paused and then I thought about what she said.
Then, I asked her to do more than pray. I asked her to become a preacher. I said, “Preach about prevention. Preach about safety. Preach about actively trying not to die. God made us, doctors, and science. We need these blessings to prevent suffering. Suffering is not inevitable. Please tell everyone you know.”
I said, “Jesus would not have been remembered if he didn’t speak up.”
Christians don’t judge people who “come to Jesus” late, and they don’t question their reasons. The same should be true for our friendships and for our fellow humans. I’m not interested in blaming or fighting right now. I’m asking you to call your crossover friends and let them know how bad it is. The hospitals are full- rural and urban. People with heart attacks, car accidents, cancer and yes, even COVID, are having a hard time finding a bed available and nurses to take care of them. Kids are now getting sick. We are seeing young pregnant people getting sick. Areas that hadn’t had much COVID earlier this year are getting over-run right now. This situation is changing rapidly. Talk to your crossover friends about reconsidering vaccination and masks. It’s okay if they were hesitant. It’s okay if they didn’t want to do it before. Ask them to please spread the good word, be the light in their community. Let your crossover friend them know that people who don’t look like them, think like them, or live like them, love them and don’t want to see any more unnecessary suffering.
Go, tell it on the mountain.
– Dr. Betsy Collins MD, MPH
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