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OPINION | RANDY L. HYDE: Love thy neighbor

For the good of all, get the shot by RANDY L. HYDE SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | May 1, 2021 at 8:23 a.m.

A picture and caption on the front page of the April 25 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette caught my eye and, I admit, got my blood boiling.

The picture is of a pastor in Tuckerman sitting on his front porch bench with a wry smile on his face. The caption says he "would not encourage his congregation to get the vaccines that he calls unproven. 'People don't want to take something or do something because someone said you got to do this.'"

Poor grammar aside, I find his attitude appalling and, frankly, unbiblical.

I sat on my response to this for a few days, wondering if my feelings might moderate a bit, or that my blood might cool. No, that didn't happen. I wonder if that pastor has ever read Jesus' admonition concerning the Great Commandment: that we are to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves.

And lest we think Jesus was the originator of this idea, you will find it firmly ensconced in the Hebrew scriptures as well. It seems to me that one way for us to love our neighbor is to care for that person's health and welfare.

I saw a drawing some weeks ago that depicted a conversation between a mother and daughter. The little girl asked her mommy what the scar was on the upper part of her arm. "It's from my smallpox vaccination," she replied. "Why don't I have one?" her daughter asked. "Because it worked," was the reply.

I grew up in the era of polio, knew others who had suffered from it, heard stories from my mother of how she isolated my brothers and me from those who had been exposed to it. And I remember receiving the vaccinations, an experience I did not appreciate then but certainly do now.

I've been a Rotarian since the late 1980s when Rotary International picked up the mantle of eliminating polio throughout the world. In those 30-plus years we have made great strides in reaching our goal, but we're not quite there. Why? Because there are pockets of people in other parts of the world who distrust our motives and fight against those who administer what is not now a needle-induced vaccine but a simple drop on the tongue. They seem to think it is some Western-conceived domination plot.

I never thought I would see that happening in my own country. Fortunately, when Jonas Salk invented the vaccine, there was little resistance here in the United States. We did not hear people saying they didn't want to take it "because someone said you got to do this."

We trusted that this would provide the necessary response to a horrible, crippling disease. We gladly responded. And while polio is still found in some parts of the world, that is not true here in our country.

If you have not yet received your vaccination(s), I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. Do it, please, as an act of faith and love.

And finally, until the pandemic is ended, why resist wearing a mask in public? While you may be protected by means of a vaccination (and if you are, good for you), you might encounter someone who is not.

That person is your neighbor, and to love that neighbor is to seek his or her welfare. From my perspective, doing all you can to overcome our current pandemic is a spiritual issue ... even when your blood is boiling.

Randy L. Hyde lives in Little Rock and is a retired pastor.


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