Monday, May 31, 2021

In Addition to the COVID Vaccine, a Different Shot in the Arm

I just completed my twenty-second year of teaching. On the last day of class, I congratulated my students for making it through such a challenging year, for having patience through every change and development, phase and Zoom delay. I gave a special shout out for those students who sent direct messages in the chat telling me, "Ms. Stricherz, we can't hear you" and the others who always kept their screens on when so many others did not. Applause! I told them I teach because I love learning and the relationships that form from that experience. With the Grace of God, both still happened. I said farewell to the 2020-2021 school year, hello to a better tomorrow and thank you to something equally significant: those shots in the arm.

I am grateful that so many of my students and golfers gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. I want to thank athletes like Bill Russell who have embraced creative campaigns to get one. The legendary Celtic said "this is one shot I won't block." Me either. As long time basketball fans know, although Hakeem Olajuwon holds the records for most blocked shots of all time, the accolade goes to Russell. How so? The NBA did not recognize blocked shots as an official stat until the 1973-74 season (Russell retired in 1969 after playing professionally for 13 seasons). Earlier this year however, he did not play defense when it came to vaxing up. Russell is one of many.  

I want to thank the HR department at Saint Francis who worked so hard to keep teachers and staff informed about the latest updates and opportunities so we could get vaxed early. I got mine in February and March but Pfizer wasn't the only shot I received during the past 14 months to keep people like me—a teacher, coach and administrator—healthy and happy. 

Just this past week, I had three former Sports and Spirituality students come by with a note of thanks. Each one expressed their gratitude for what they learned and the relationships that were born from that experience. Their words, the memories, prayers and hopes for the future are a shot without side effects. This was a different kind of heart burn.

One month prior, the girls' volleyball team sent hand-written, personalized thank you notes to the Athletic Office at Saint Francis for all we did to help them have a season this school year. My boss, the Director of Athletics told me about this first. He was so touched by the gesture, he brought it up in our weekly meeting. A few days later, I went to my mailbox at school only to find a stack of these missives addressed to me, too. Several were written by girls that I know but there were others I don't. It didn't matter. I read each one and I smiled. It felt GREAT. I was touched by their thoughtfulness and their realization that playing a sport is not something that just happens. Thanks to the hard work of many people, a season, practice, participation and competition in athletics can go live and thrive. We didn't need COVID to teach any of that, but it's one by-product of challenging times.

Coaches: Feel free to steal this idea!

Interesting historical perspective. This isn't the first time celebrities have been used to promote a vaccine
Here we have Elvis Presley getting the Polio vaccine in 1956

I have taught in a school where we lost not one but two students to death by suicide in the same year. There was a five year period, where teenage life was so precarious, we carried a burden that still confounds me. Long ago, I realized if we could make it through those dark days, we could make it through anything. Though true, it still didn't make this past year easier. It did however help me frame what I know: it is important to give thanks each day. Whether our gratitude is for our daily bread, a teacher or coach, the gift of life or the gift of a season of sport—let us remind one another that those words of thanksgiving whether written or said—are another great shot in the arm. And, we grow healthier and perhaps more resilient because of them.

When my friend Malia got her vaccine, she started to tear up. Relief, gratitude, thanksgiving. The nurse told her "honey, no one tells you those are another side effect of the shot." Here, here. And to more shots in the arm....thanks be to God.

Photo Credits
Bill Russell
St Francis Thank you notes--my photo!

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