Taking care of each other, one tribe at a time.

I like the balance of it.  The reciprocity of it.  For more than a year, our children and grandchildren, our young people and youth, have had the responsibility of keeping the elders of our human “tribe” safe.  They’ve separated themselves and left their jobs and schools, they’ve stayed at home and kept their distance – initially, primarily, and poignantly to protect the vulnerability of the older generations.  Now, it’s the grandmothers’ and grandfathers’ turn to protect the young.

It’s all about developing “herd immunity” – a term I suspect many of us had not heard of or used much before, but which we now understand with hard-learned wisdom.  And it represents at least three-quarters of the population.  More than seventy-five percent of us walking on the face of the earth today must have immunity or it won’t work – immunity to a disease that has been stalking us all for longer than a year.  At the latest count, there are approximately seven-and-one-half billion people in our global tribe; that means about five-and-one-half billion of us carry the responsibility to protect the others.

The fact that we have the means for obtaining immunity without having to contract the disease (and survive it) astounds me.  The vaccines that allow us to be the human delivery system of immunity into the world truly amaze me.  But when I first considered being a participant, I thought of myself as just one of seven-and-one-half billion people; and living on just one continent, in one country, in one state, in one town.  And I felt terribly insignificant.  

I knew that I was an “elder” – but, after all, I live alone, and I am freakishly healthy, I work from home, and I have no children or grandchildren of my own.  And so, I thought, I could sit quietly behind closed doors and wait out my turn.

But God and the universe had other plans.  A space for me suddenly became available and was graciously assigned to me for a vaccination.

And then I panicked.  Full-out, heart-pounding, sleep-tossing, stomach-aching, friend-annoying, panic.  But it was all in fear for my own safety and my own comfort and my own wellbeing.

And so, God and the universe made other plans again.  This time, it was in the form of a new perspective, a new perception.  And it crept quite undeniably and quietly into my heart.  

I began to count the numbers in my own, small, familial tribe:  There are three in my generation, and one from the generation before us; and there are six in the next generation, and four after them – a total of fourteen.  And I was no longer insignificant.  Doing the math I realized that my own “herd” needs about ten of us to carry the immunity for the rest.  And since there are four in our total under the age of nine (too young for the vaccines out now), it means that it is my turn to protect them – at least in theory and philosophy.  Without me, my tribe remains vulnerable.

As I am writing this column, I am about to receive my first dose of the two prescribed shots.  Perhaps I will want to update it after the experience.  But I suspect it will stand as written.  I suspect once my perspective was shifted, that it will remain so.  Because now I am no longer becoming immune for me – or even for the rest of the world; this is my turn for protecting Thomas and Greta and Lily and Genevieve.  For returning the favor they and their parents have been doing for me all year long.   

I suspect we all want to help take care of each other and the world in general.  Perhaps in the end we will do just that … one tribe at a time.