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Deciding to get the Covid vaccine can be like jumping into dark waters

Jun 03

A Wichita Eagle Newspaper special commentary by Ryan W. Gates. Ryan works with HealthCore Clinic and is adjunct faculty at Wichita State University’s School of Digital Arts.


We are standing on the edge of deep water on a hot summer night. We know once we get in the water it will cool our skin, wash the day’s grime from our hair, and give us that sense of calm that comes after the swim is over. But right now, that water looks cold, dark, and mysterious. One of our friends has been swimming here their entire life, they are an “expert” so to speak. When the water’s edge was first beneath our feet and undisturbed, they were the first to jump in. They show us the water is safe and give us directions on how to get in.

The “Wait and See” group stands on the edge assessing how the others fare. Much like the first wave of swimmers, a leader must emerge from this group. There are calls from the people in the water, “Jump in! The water is fine!” Still, the “Wait and See” group stays. The unknown is scary, and that water seems particularly dark and mysterious now. Then a member of the “Wait and See” group turns to the others and says, “We’ll do it together.”

We hold hands. We have mini-conferences and discuss our fears. We make mutual agreements. Then…

“1… 2… 3!”

Eyes clamped shut, hand-in-hand, we leap into the unknown! Cold water rushes up to meet us! We are surrounded in darkness, the sounds of the world fly away, and our panic rises as we plunge into a sea of bubbles. Then, our senses rush back to us as we breach the surface of the water and draw in a deep breath. We’re in! We can breathe! We’re fine. The water is cool, not cold. The darkness isn’t scary, it’s exciting. Fear is replaced with relief.

There are members of our group who stay on shore. A few of the “Wait and See” don’t make the leap. Some of our group never got into a swimsuit, they do not want to swim tonight or any other night. That’s okay. They’re still part of our group. They are not wrong for not swimming. We are not right for jumping in. We are all different people who make different decisions.

We’re at a tipping point for Covid-19 vaccinations. Many of the “Wait and See” have 10-toes over the edge of the dock and are awaiting that last internal push that causes us to say “Go for it!” and jump. When you do make that leap, think of the faithful follower who jumped in after the “expert.” This is you now. You are the faithful follower who can incite a movement.

When we towel off and look back at the lake, we will no longer see dark, mysterious waters. We will see the place where we swam together under a summer moon. We remember the feeling of togetherness and look forward to the next time. We are reunited with those who did not swim, and once we’re away from the water’s edge it is no longer important who swam or not. Everyone has their own experience. The one who jumped in headfirst. The one who yelled out in celebration in a cannonball. The one who waded in slowly. The one who jumped in with their nose plugged and eyes shut tightly. The one who dipped a toe. The one who never got in. The one who thinks everyone who swam is crazy.

I’m no expert. But I can tell you, “The water is fine. Come on in.”

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