My first vaccination is complete. In ways I didn’t anticipate, the moment brought forward a full range of emotions and all of them centred on gratitude. Grateful to be alive. Grateful to be healthy. Grateful to have access to the vaccine. Grateful I didn’t pass out (not a big fan of needles, guys). Just simply grateful.
That mindset is a choice. It takes practice. Pandemic paranoia has sure tested the limits of my positivity and my hope for humanity (actually, my tolerance for humanity in general). Fortunately, I’ve come to understand gratitude isn’t about being positive all the time. It’s about accepting the situation for what it is and finding something to ground you. Quite the challenge in a world perpetually unravelling around us.
It was easy to feel gratitude when I lined up inside the Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex, a place I have entered a thousand times. I have played there, swam there, emceed galas, danced at celebrations, greeted people during the annual Fergus Lions Home Show, covered fundraising events, and gathered with my community in grief there. It’s home to the fall fair, and the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games, two things I have missed.
Yet the sacredness of that building will always be watching my son play sports. A flood of memories came over me as I was directed to a nursing station on the same ice pad where I cheered loudly over the plexiglass for my kid, in his #4 jersey.
I remembered sitting in the stands, enjoying weekly catch-ups with friends as our kids took to the ice for hockey or the floor for lacrosse. Cheering. Supporting one another, win or lose. Carpooling. A collective raising of our children. That was our community. Time flies. Soon, another generation of families will experience this too.
The nurse was kind. When she was done giving me the vaccine, she congratulated me, as if I’d won a prize. And you know, I felt like I had. My mask covered my grin as I sat there, feeling for the first time like I was one step closer to shedding the fear that COVID has quietly shadowed on my life.
I moved to a chair on the blue line to wait the recommended 15 minutes post-injection. I clocked my time on the score board. How Canadian was this moment? If the Zamboni started up and the Tragically Hip came on the loud speakers, I’d have floated.
I decided at the start of all this pandemic that I wouldn’t fret about what I couldn’t control. I would be grateful that other people have the weight of those decisions. And sure, vaccination rollouts have been messed up, we can be frustrated by lockdowns, and most definitely the logic behind decisions, but it’s easy to call a game from the bench.
Nobody planned this disaster. Nobody wants others to suffer. None of this is fair to anyone. Why did we assume it would be? Yet we’re not powerless in this pandemic. If a vaccine is offered to you, you’ve got a choice.
I’ve done my part; took my shot. Scored. In losing my sense of community, I’ve found it again, at centre ice. My community matters to me more than politics. Our future does too.