By: Erin Fuller
I stared at the email for a full minute prior to clicking on the link and scheduling my first vaccine appointment. When I arrived at my assigned county rec center, roads were blocked off and people were waving cars into the lots with flags. Once I exited my car, I followed a series of arrows, signs, and “human ” (event professional term) to check in and proceed toward my shot.
When the off-duty volunteer firefighter gave me my first round of Pfizer, I beamed at him. When he noted how happy I was, I said I hoped everyone took the time to appreciate everything that went into that moment. I proceeded to my 15-minute wait, and when my time was up, a local high school student let me know and walked me to the exit, helpfully pointing out how to get back to my parked car.
Door-to-door time: 41 minutes.
Only when I was back in my car, adjusting my “I Got My COVID-19 Vaccine” sticker, did I process the fact that every single person I encountered was volunteering their time and talent to ensure that I and so many others had a seamless and safe experience. I am moved all over again as I write this — the fact that from the woman in the street who waved in my car, to the student who asked if I wanted a photo in front of a step-and-repeat, so many people gave of their time during a global pandemic, when every instance of extra human contact is something that we consider much differently than we did in the past.
I don’t know why I’m surprised, as I have had the privilege to work with exceptional volunteers my entire career thanks to the association partners we serve. Last year, I was in meetings with a group of emergency physicians who, after 12-plus-hour shifts (with mask lines on their faces to prove it), worked to establish a new organization. I have watched countless groups travel to some amazing places — and make time to paint schools, raise money, or collect goods for local causes, to thank their host location. And the number of mentorship hours our association volunteers put in — via formal programs or in response to outreach from an emerging professional who founder their name on the board list online — are too many to count.
As a recovering political science major, I instantly thought of Alexis de Toqueville’s classic book Democracy in America and found this new translation: “Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite…. Americans use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools.” DeToqueville continues: “I often admired the infinite art with which the inhabitants of the United States managed to fix a common goal to the efforts of many men and to get them to advance to it freely.”
As someone who is a huge fan of social history, I find it inspiring to be part of a moon shot moment in time, when we collectively worked toward the greater good. Thanks to everyone for the efforts made, large and small, singular and ongoing, to help us through the last, extraordinary year.
In addition to better health outcomes, I believe the vaccines are also giving many of us a second wind. We’re seeing that energy across our client partners with so much desire to do more — to prepare and position for a time when we can marry the magic that we’ve perfected over the past months in connecting virtually with the power of in-person engagement. I am very excited to see how the rest of 2021 unfolds.
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