You don't get to say 'no'

2 May 2021

Remember when you first realized the stark reality of COVID? For me it was a video, shared by my friend Johnny Pisano. The video was taken by a kid on a BMX bike rolling through an eerily quiet New York City. The streets were empty and as he passed a hospital, you could see refrigerated trucks that were being used to store hundreds of dead bodies. The video was posted to Youtube on April 15, 2020 and Johnny sent it to me shortly afterwards. It hit me like an 18-wheeler. The city that never sleeps was a ghost town and bodies were piled so high, their hospitals and morgues couldn’t hold them. From that point forward, I vowed to do my part to find an end to COVID. What could I do? It was simple really. Wear a mask, stay home and take the vaccine when it became available. Sure it was monotonous and yes I missed my family, and my friends. But never once did I say, “I want my freedom and I don’t care about the rest of the world.” Who would?

Well, unfortunately a small number of Canadians are unwilling to make that simple sacrifice of isolation and vaccination for the greater good. Led by idiot politicians like Randy Hillier, Maxime Bernier and Derek Sloan these people are claiming that their own personal freedoms override the health of their neighbours, their friends and their family. They want the “freedom” to make others sick, to prolong COVID and to refuse the vaccine.
Here’s a quick lesson in community and global health, your freedom of choice ends when it directly impacts the health and wellbeing of others. You don’t get to say “no” to lockdowns or stay-at-home orders and you damn sure don’t get to say “no” to the vaccine.
Every generation born in Canada from the 1946 to 1979 got the smallpox vaccine. They didn’t ask for it and they didn’t say no to it. They just got it. It saved millions and it ended smallpox. ENDED IT. Smallpox no longer exists and we have the scars to prove it. Mine is on my right arm. It’s an ugly bump full of irregular ridges, but when I look at it, I don’t wave my fist in anger at the government that insisted upon it; I’m proud of it. I helped to wipe out a disease that could have decimated the world.

If you were born in the late seventies or later, you probably don’t have the scar. Your arm might be pristine and unmarked.  You know why? Because we took one for the team. You owe those of us that came before a debt and it’s time to pay up. Get your COVID vaccine. Don’t wonder if you should, don’t “research” the internet for reasons to avoid it. The work’s been done by men and women who have dedicated their lives to science. Men and women who went to school and studied virology, epidemiology, medicine and public health. They spent tens of thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars becoming experts in how a virus spreads and how to stop it. They didn’t get a meme from the third cousin of a friend and decide they knew everything they needed to know about vaccines. They read books, went to labs, experimented, studied, took exams, tests and sacrificed time so that when COVID arrived on our shores, they could stop it.

In February of 2020, experts at the World Health Organization theorized it would take a year and a half to effect a vaccine. Instead, we had one in 10 months. Now all you have to do is take it. You can’t refuse this. You can’t claim that you know more than the scientists because you don’t. You know much LESS than the scientists. You’ve got one job. Roll up your sleeve and let the doctor, the pharmacist or the med student insert a needle into your deltoid and deliver this miracle of science. You won’t even have a scar to point to when future generations ask, “How did you help to stop COVID?” Instead, you will have the knowledge that you did something to save others. This is your chance to save the world – literally – and all you have to do is roll up your sleeve.
Be a hero to millions.
Save the world.
Get the vaccine.
You don’t get to say “no”.




Losing weight on a run

4 March 2021

He remembered a time when he and the road was his friend. A time when the sound of his shoes against the pavement was the backbeat to his favourite song; when the wind and the cars and the sounds of the city combined into the white noise background of a novel he was writing in his head.
Those days were gone; disappeared into the vortex of youth and “time served”.
Now the road was a bully that taunted him. He slapped it, and it slapped back twice as hard. He looked for the end and saw only an oily, menacing scar that stretched past the horizon. And still, he ran.
He ran because it was the shortcut to self-esteem. He ran because despite the fear and the pain, he knew when he found the finish line, he would feel better. He ran because he felt like he was losing everything else – his wife, his friends, his cat, his family, himself.
So when he passed the woman at the 5 km mark, he had no idea how her words would affect him. He had no idea that two simple words would lift him up and remind him he was on the right path and heading in the right direction.
“Good job,” she said.

It wasn’t patronizing or exaggerated. It wasn’t overt encouragement or sarcasm. It was just acknowledgement of his effort.
“Thanks,” he said with a mixture of exhaustion and gratitude.

His posture changed imperceptibly and his pace increased slightly; not because she was attractive and he was vain. She was and he was – but it was something else. He thought about it for a moment and then he realized that for months now, he’d been carrying the burden of questionable health and pharmaceutical side-effects on his own. He’d been walking or skating or running with a lead-weighted belt of pills and uncertainty wrapped around his waist and it had slowed him down to a standstill.
And yet, this stranger on Union St. had temporarily lifted the weight and revealed a truth. He wasn’t alone. He had chosen to deal with things on his own but even people he’d never met could help if he let them in. Maybe his fear of the road and his weakness of will had made him more open to suggestion. Maybe the warmth of a spring morning had exposed him to a different mindset. Or maybe just a kind word from a passing citizen was enough. Whatever the reason, he finished his run with a smile; much lighter than when he’d started.
“Note to self,” he thought, “stay open to kindness and it’s much more likely to find you.”
Maybe he could renew that friendship with the road afterall.


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