Monday, March 22, 2021

Vaccines, and Beans (Gigantes Plaki): On Investing in Kindness

Disclaimer: I know this is going to be controversial. Bear with me.

My FB feed has been full, lately, of people getting vaccinated.

This is a really good thing, because vaccines in arms are good for everyone, except my feeds are also full of people who are older, or immunocompromised, or are in some way more vulnerable to COVID-19, and can't get an appointment, or don't know how. 

The underlying deeply uncomfortable truth--which I tested by posting to FB innocently asking if I might be missing something or should I be ignoring the message to wait my turn, and was rewarded by people PMing me both to encourage me to cut in line and sending me tips for getting that elusive appointment--is that some currently non-eligible people are getting vaccine appointments before people who are more vulnerable, know this, and don't care. As someone responded to my post, "it's like the Hunger Games."

Some of this has to do with a lack of faith in the government to be effective (which, to be honest, it is NOT;  the patchwork systems in place to connect people with vaccines are a mess in NJ, to say the least). Some of it is just "every man for himself." All of this has gotten me thinking a lot about what I've observed about human behavior during the pandemic, from the hoarding of toilet paper to the refusal to wear masks to protect others to vaccine "hunting." (And yes, that's really what it's called.)

In the U.S., for better or worse, we invest in individuals; we reward competition, cunning, and greed. That's what gets people ahead. The first people in line get the most toilet paper. Honestly, it's been very tempting to game the system and schedule my appointment, even though I'm not eligible right now.

Where is the opportunity for us to cultivate and invest in kindness? In generosity? In gratitude? How do we build a culture that truly believes that there's enough for everyone, and where you don't have to be first? There are "angel" vaccination sites, people who are staying up until 4 a.m. to get vaccine appointments for people when they "drop," but even they are reporting that people are demanding appointments from them.

I used to bring this dish to our local community race and diversity potluck conversations, pre-pandemic. It doesn't cost much, it feeds a lot of people, and it's nutritious and easy to make. The cool thing about potlucks is that you almost always have more leftovers than you started with, even if people come without having brought anything. People like potlucks; you're bound to discover some tasty dish you didn't realize your neighbor had, and people like showing off their best recipes. What if we had approached this pandemic more like a potluck than a race? How much more toilet paper would there have been at the beginning, and how much more of everything would we all have right now?

Greek Gigantes

1 pound dry gigantes beans, soaked overnight
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 (14.5-ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetarian chicken broth (or water)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
fresh dill (optional)
Crusty bread, black pepper, and more olive oil for serving

Boil the beans for 10 minutes. (OK, I confess sometimes I skip even this step.)

Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a large slow cooker. Cook for 4-6 hours on high, or 8-10 hours on low. Taste and add more salt as needed.
Serve with toasted crusty bread. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, and with a sprinkle, on each bowl, of fresh dill.

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  1. This does my heart good. I hope you are weathering this storm okay as you can.

    I'm grateful to be living in a place with expanded eligibility (at this point anyone 16+ at risk is eligible, and by April 5, everyone 16+ and I have theories about why this is so) but I found myself thinking a lot about these issues in relation to my personal situation, and those around me. Hugs.

    1. Hey, gwinne ... good to hear your "voice." :) I have a sort of part two on this, which has a bit more of a silver lining. Really glad that you're eligible and hope that you're weathering this OK, too. *hugs* back at you.

  2. I am with you on this. It comes down to the ever-present "can" vs "should." At the end of April, I can get a vaccine, in the sense that my state is throwing its hands in the air and saying, "Never mind with the phases. Anyone over 16 can get it." So people who need the vaccine will be lumped in with people who need/want the vaccine (I am a need/want. We all need a vaccine, but I can wait. I just want it now. Vs. someone who needs a vaccine and they need it now because they are not able to stay home or they have more risks for severe illness.)

    Which means that while it was difficult for seniors to get their vaccine when they were just competing with other seniors, it will now become impossible for people with secondary health issues to get a vaccine when they're competing with the general population.

    On one hand, by not taking a vaccine, I'm not helping the community because most of us need to get the vaccine to protect people who can't get the vaccine. But by getting the vaccine, I may be taking an appointment from someone who really needs it. On the other hand, I may also be taking an appointment from someone who is on equal ground.

    The point is that the whole system is terrible. The rollout is terrible. And it didn't need to be terrible because we've done this before and we should be able to learn and do better each time there is a mass distribution of a vaccine. And yet here we are.

    1. It is insane. Why are WE the people left trying to essentially figure out how to best protect public health? I am absolutely not qualified for that role, and yet, that's how it's played out.


  3. "It's the Hunger Games" is hardly a good justification for any behaviour, is it? Even in the Hunger Games, the heroine (and winner) chose to do the right thing. Good grief. And it's happening on a global scale too. The rich countries are hoarding the vaccines, generally giving money but not actual doses to those developing countries who need them. I applaud you for doing the right thing. It's wrong that it is up to you, but you'll at least be able to live with yourself afterwards.

    1. You're right, it is even worse on a global scale. I hate the "well, a vaccine in the arm is all that matters" approach ... and while it may all be over soon, I hope that the lessons we've learned about who we are don't go away.


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