Faith in the Vaccine: "Let us Be People Who Listen"

A woman in a medical gown escorts an elderly man, placing her arm around his back. Photo: Mat Napo/Unsplash

In an age where there is so much information, we have a crisis of too much. If one person says something, there are always two more who say another. When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines, it’s no different. There is so much information and debate on the topic that it can be hard for people on the fence to cut through the noise. They can feel overwhelmed and alienated by either side of the argument, which leads to more hesitancy. To effectively communicate with people about the vaccine, we first must build personal relationships based on trust.  

It was with this mindset that I started approaching the issue in my community. Living in a rural town in central Iowa and attending a church with less than 150 people, everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Being a biology major on a pre-med track at Central College in Pella, Iowa, most people in my church know that I decided to go back to school to become a doctor and have been very supportive. What surprised me, though, was how many people starting asking me questions about COVID and the vaccine. The association of myself with medicine, because of my pre-med track, created a great opportunity to build those relationships I had been looking for.  

As these conversations unfolded, it became clear that the first thing I needed to do was listen. In a society that is so polarizing and all about my view being the only correct one, listening is something that is often overlooked. We must start by understanding people’s questions and concerns. I listened to their questions and answered them not only with what I knew, but also pointing them towards resources I trusted. I found great resources from Christian organizations they trusted. How does the vaccine work? Where do stem cells play a part? Why should I get the vaccine if I’m young and healthy? These were conversations I had. They felt different because they were not a debate.   

When we talk to people about vaccines, it can so easily become a debate where we try and show how our knowledge is superior to theirs. What I experienced was not a spirit of debate but a yearning for answers and reassurances to questions they were struggling with. For this to happen, it had to start with listening: not to reply with why I’m right, but in order to understand their questions. These questions are about many aspects of the vaccine and the science behind it. We may not know the answer to all of them. That’s okay. To have a relationship of trust, we must be honest. When I didn’t know, I pointed them to trusted people who did.  

Our town has a billboard that sits on the main road. For several months now, it’s sported a large advertisement that in bold, red letters says, “get your COVID vaccine!” Every time I drive by, I ask myself, is that effective? How many people have read that authoritative sign and thought, “Wow, I should go get vaccinated!” I would guess it has done more harm than good. Just like the billboard, our efforts can’t be perceived as hostile. Our words and actions can drive people away. They must be made with the right attitude and message that promotes purpose, education, and faith in something that can make our world a better place to live in.  

Let us be people who listen. Let us focus on the questions people have, not the answers we want to give. Let us be people that build relationships with those around us, whether we agree with them or not. Let us put aside our desire to win the argument and instead humble ourselves to help those who need it. You can make a difference—now, go do it. Start by listening.  

 

Collin Reynolds is a senior at Central College in Pella, Iowa, majoring in biology on a pre-med track. He is also involved in genetic research focused on the genetic components of taste. He serves as the youth group leader at his church in Newton where he lives with his wife, Amanda, a labor and delivery nurse. Collin plans to attend medical school and become a family practice physician.  

 

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.