“So, Are You Vaccinated Yet?”

On a very hot summer day recently, my partner Chris and I were lazily lounging and enjoying the peace and quiet in the outdoor pool at the YMCA we are a member of when suddenly, a woman approached us in the water and began loudly expressing her extreme displeasure of all unvaccinated people in our country. She had no idea I was unvaccinated nor knew of any of my health issues that have led to why I haven’t gotten one yet. I cringed as she continued to talk at a level where most around the pool could hear. When she said that all unvaccinated people need to be rounded up and sent somewhere outside our country where they can all die, I had enough. I was close to saying something that I knew I’d probably regret, which is why I quickly exited the pool. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s just best to keep my voice silent and pray for the person, because some people are just looking for an argument and there’s nothing that can be said to them where they might find greater understanding, love, and connection, especially when one of the first questions out of their mouth is, “So, are you vaccinated yet?”

The world lately seems to be filled with many people like this. How many times have I overheard people from both sides of this issue expressing their strong opinions for anyone to hear? Too many. Frankly, it’s got me so frustrated, because if I wasn’t going through all the health issues I have been for as long as I have, I’d already have gotten a vaccination, just like I did in my earlier years of life. Regardless, I’m so weary of these vaccination arguments and discussions, with people sending me article after article surrounding the science on this virus, the constant fighting and bickering on this subject, and the near-constant drama of pro-vaxxers versus anti-vaxxers. Last year was all about pro-Biden versus pro-Trump, of which I couldn’t escape no matter where I was. Now it’s all about this virus and I keep on seeing the fallout from it with friends walking away from each other, pointing fingers, and placing the blame on why they think this virus is still around.

I experienced some of this with a dear friend just recently. At the end of this month, I’m heading to the Washington, D.C. area to reconnect with several friends I haven’t seen in over 10 years. When one of them I spoke to over the phone asked me before our call ended, “So, are you vaccinated yet?”, I wanted to lie, but I’m not a liar. Yet, I knew where this was going to go at that point, but I remained honest and said I hadn’t been yet and explained why. It didn’t matter though. Even though I was willing to wear a mask, remain at a healthy distance, and even get a COVID test just to help them feel safe, they didn’t want to see me at all, even after 26 years of being the best of friends and even after not having seen me for well over a decade. I accepted their decision, but it hurt…A LOT.

The rejection from someone who’s been a part of my life for so long, all because of my unvaccinated status, made me wonder if that’s what happened back in the early 80’s with friends when HIV began spreading. Initially, it was called “GRID” or “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency” and anyone who was gay was chastised and blamed for the virus. Gay people became lepers in society, the total shame of the world. The news and the public in general pointed the finger solely at homosexuals and many stayed far away from them because of it, that is until science proved it was a sexually transmitted virus with both homosexuals and heterosexuals. Presently, science and the news continue to report the only reason why COVID is still a problem is due to all the unvaccinated people. Whether that’s 100% true or not doesn’t matter in my book, because like HIV, or when it was first known as GRID, each of those people who were gay were worthy and deserving of love then, just like all unvaccinated people are now.

Nevertheless, I’m afraid now to be in any type of public social setting, because it seems like that question of, “So, are you vaccinated yet?” continues to arise where the feeling I get each time it does is one of total repulsion from others when I answer it truthfully. It often feels like I’m getting the entire blame of the virus at that moment. I can’t imagine Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammad acting this way, given they were each about expressing unconditional love and acceptance of all. That’s why I am trying to emulate those qualities in my life as best as I can, regardless of whether someone has chosen to vaccinate or not, and regardless of any person’s stance on anything in life really, even if it’s something I stand completely differently on.

Ultimately, I just wish I wasn’t caught in the middle of this vaccination issue, but sadly, I am. But maybe that’s a good thing, for if it’s taught me one thing, it’s to love at a much Higher Level, one where it doesn’t matter whether someone has vaccinated or not, where instead what’s more important is loving someone no matter what, even the woman at the YMCA pool who wishes to banish people like me to another country where I can be left to die.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Can One Develop True Faith In God By Constantly Asking For Signs Of His Presence?

I know this is a subject I’ve spoken to before, but I think it’s one worth repeating from time to time in my writing, especially as of late where I’ve really found myself questioning if God is even real. The fact is, my health issues and ailments are really getting the best of me lately and when they have, I have found asking God via prayer for proof of His existence, most of which have gone unanswered. You know why I think that is? Because no matter how many proofs we may get, I think we will always keep questioning God’s existence each time the going gets rough, leaving us in a perpetual cycle of weak faith. I had a strong reminder of this recently in fact.

On one specific day when no rain was predicted in the local forecast and skies were clear, I knew I needed to water the yard, I just didn’t feel like doing it because of how crappy I had been feeling. So, I asked God to show He was still there for me by making it rain that night, and just after midnight, it did, for 15 minutes, in a downpour, fully removing my need to water the yard. Yet, it wasn’t long after that, maybe a few days later at best, when my pain got the best of me again. Once again, I found myself questioning whether God was real and asking for another sign to prove He was. This time it dealt with the winds outside. I asked God to calm the winds because they had been driving down droves of leaves into my yard for days like it was fall and I was getting so sick of cleaning them all up. According to all the weather forecasts, they weren’t supposed to calm down for another day, but ironically, they disappeared within 30 minutes after saying that prayer and never returned. You’d think this would increase my faith, but it did the opposite, making me become more dependent, almost like an addiction, on proof of God’s existence, versus just blindly trusting He’s there and still has a beautiful plan for me.

The reality is, I don’t think any number of signs of God’s presence will ever make me fully believe in Him, as my ego always seems to find a reason to prove otherwise. The fact is, God either is or He isn’t and coming to that place where one truly believes He is, will never come from receiving one sign after another of God’s existence, it will come though from having true faith within. Faith that develops from just blindly trusting, even when the mind can’t seem to find a reason too.

There is simply no way I would ever have made it thus far in life if God had answered me every time I asked Him for proof of Him. To stand in this storm I have been with my health, for as many years as I have, to have endured the level of pain I have with no relief in sight, has required incredibly strong faith, one that most assuredly has been tested repeatedly. This faith hasn’t come from signs at all, rather it’s come from walking through a constant darkness, hands outstretched, trusting that God is somewhere in front of me, beckoning me to keep moving forward, all while believing that when I finally make it to the other side of this, that I’ll have a far deeper unshakable faith, one that will need far less signs of His proof and instead whose life itself will become proof of God’s existence.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Are You A Fighter?

I haven’t done any type of serious biking or walking for long distances in a very long time, two things I once did regularly. The reason for this simply has been out of fear to making things worse for me with my long-running health issues, specifically with the Fibromyalgia and sciatica I continue to endure. This all changed last week though when I decided I wanted to be a fighter and challenge that part of my ego by asking God for strength to do both when I was with my best friend Cedric on a vacation in Massachusetts.

For years, Cedric has been talking about taking me on this Cape Cod canal bike ride he does frequently during the warmer months. It’s a 14-mile roundtrip venture that heads from Buzzards Bay to Scusset beach and back. Prior to 2010, I could have done that at least twice in one day, as I used to bike more than 27 miles every day as part of a daily exercise routine, specifically when I lived on the island of Chincoteague, Virginia. I’m not sure why I decided to press through my fear of intense exercise on this trip versus any of the others I’ve taken to visit him, but if I was to guess that reason, I think it’s ultimately because I’m tired of waiting for my health to improve before I try something new. Regardless, after picking out a bike to rent on a Thursday early afternoon during my recent visit to him, I hopped on the tiny seat and headed off onto the canal next to his bike on what I would call a picture-perfect summer weather day. While some light winds were against me during our bike ride to the beach, I felt a strong determination to at least make it to the halfway point. I think knowing the bike company said they’d come get me if I couldn’t make it back was reassuring enough to at least strive for that halfway point. Honestly, reaching the beach and conquering that first seven miles felt pretty amazing to say the least. It was as if some part of my ego died that day once I did. Nevertheless, I took a brief rest with Cedric out on a long jetty surrounded by the lull of the ocean waves, after which I felt invigorated enough to attempt the return trip. Truly, at that point, seven miles was the most I had biked in over 13 years, so the adrenaline running through me was quite high and most definitely overshadowing any pain. In the end, I did make it back to the bike shop, completing the entire 14-mile arc! Ironically, just before I pulled into the shop I collided my bike into Cedric’s and fell to the ground, but thankfully I didn’t injure myself more than some minor scrapes. It was pretty laughable actually and a hilarious ending to a major achievement in my life.

As for the walking achievement, well that came a few days later in Gloucester, Massachusetts. We were staying at an oceanfront motel on a cliffside and I suggested one afternoon to go for a walk because it was another spectacular day. I haven’t walked much over a mile or two in a very long time as well, given the same reasons with my health. So, when I set out on the walk, I did my best to pay more attention to the serenity around me with the ocean and all those spectacularly huge homes rather than the pain. About a mile and a half into the walk, I began feeling uncomfortable in my left leg where much of my pain resides. Cedric said we could turn around and my ego definitely wanted to, but my spirit didn’t. In that moment, maybe even determined than the bike ride, I asked God for the strength to press on, as I really wanted to do an entire circular arc I had originally mapped out on my phone, rather than back tracking. While I took a lot more breaks after that, I actually ended up completing that arc, which was approximately 4.5 miles!

Overall, while I did experience the after effects of both intensive exercise-fueled outings on my body, it was well worth it, because it said one thing very clearly to my ego that I’m not giving up on myself! I’m truly a fighter and refuse to give up or give in to this pain, something both my parents did and something I continue to pray to never do.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson