Five Acts of Love

In a world littered with hatred, I want to talk about compassion, and the humanity I witnessed when I received my first COVID-19 vaccination on Friday.

I followed a line of cars into the parking lot at the ‘main center’ — the place they’re making us all go — and right away I knew it was a well-coordinated effort. A policeman stood at the intersection, guiding us into the lot where people were coming and going in droves from the large building at the other end, like ants scurrying to and from their nest, except this nest served as the hub from which we were taking things away instead of delivering our tiny crumbs.

A long line enveloped nearly the entire building, so I took my place at the back. On my way there, a sprightly volunteer greeted me with a peppy, “Happy Friday!” I smiled under my mask, made eye contact, and returned her greeting.

Yes, despite its obscurity, a smile is still evident under a mask, because you smile with more than your mouth. ;)

I heard another volunteer telling people in line it would only be a fifteen-minute wait from that point — a child thought the fire alarm looked cool and pulled it earlier, so they had just resumed normal operations after clearance from the fire department. He apologized for the inconvenience, but the people in line chuckled, glad to have their expectations set, and probably imagining a googly-eyed toddler running toward the fire alarm handle while a parent chased after him, desperate to block his siege… to no avail.

Colorful pansies in a pot

As promised, the line moved at a quick clip. In no time I was at the front of the building, where I paused briefly to take a picture of some pansies in a pot that caught my eye. The woman in front of me moved up while the man behind me was held back by a volunteer, and there I stood in the middle of the front entryway when I heard, “Ma’am — were you in line?” I turned to look. The volunteer was pointing at me with a rather menacing scowl, seeming to have forgotten I had just passed her.

“Yes, I’ve been in line,” I replied, worried I’d be kicked to the back again. She let me go. I sighed thankfully as I hustled back behind my previous line buddy, soon realizing why the woman had been so abrasive. Two other ladies walked up and tried to enter the line behind me, but the volunteer shooed them away and directed them behind the building. I appreciated her enforcing the rules as much as I appreciated the new arrivals’ honoring of her words without so much as a loud exhale or eye roll.

There was mutual respect for the rules.

Someone guided me to one of the check-in booths where my volunteer held hot packs in her hands to keep them from freezing. Our exchange was brief, but effective. Then I moved indoors to stand in line awaiting a nurse to administer my vaccine, and as I stood there, observing through the window the line from which I had just graduated outside, I was moved to tears.

A volunteer welcomed each patient out there in line and steered them to a check-in booth, her purse slung diagonally across her shoulder like she wouldn’t be there long. And it was the WAY she greeted them that was special: she touched her right hand to each person’s left shoulder, leaned into them, and ushered them toward the next available check-in booth with consistent kindness. She must have done the same for me, I just didn’t realize it in the moment. Sometimes we have to step away from something to regard it with fresh eyes.

I watched her for a few minutes, and her physical connection did not waver, regardless of the person’s gender, race, clothing, or body language. Even more beautiful was the diversity that presented itself to her: black, white, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern. Some people had white or blonde hair; others had brown or black. One had red. Some women wore burqas, others wore shiny yoga pants. One man wore jeans overalls. There were all ages, except children. Some were together; others were alone. And one woman in particular — whom I later showed to the restroom — wore a headwrap and looked quite frail as she hobbled alone toward the check-in booth.

These people from all walks of life were here for the same reason. And they were treated with unbiased compassion.

In the center, I followed the dots on the floor, spaced six feet apart, which read, “This way to shot.”

I couldn’t help but remember — as I do every year — that it was on that day fourteen years ago a shooting rampage took the lives of 32 people at Virginia Tech. I couldn’t help but remember — as I do each day — that I am relinquishing control of my destiny every time I go out in public. I wondered if the language on the floor could be softer, such as, “This way to vaccine.” One small word. One huge difference.

I rounded the corner to the huge room, where at least 60 stations were filled, each with a nurse and a patient. Masks of all colors speckled the scene — a nurse with a yellow mask huddled with a man wearing an American flag mask, pointing to something on her tablet. There were blue disposable masks, an N95, one mask with a colorful flower design, and another sprinkled by whimsical confetti. Mine was teal.

I sat at a station with a young nurse in scrubs, whose hair was pulled back by a hairband across her forehead. After inquiring, she explained she was a volunteer and normally works with babies in the ICU. I loved her immediately. She said she was happy to have the chance to engage with adults. Then, in a flash, she swabbed my arm and stabbed me with a needle I never even felt while whispering to me that the 300-pound men were most afraid. I smiled and thanked her, then sat for ten minutes in the post-vaccine waiting room and reflected.

Not only did the entire experience touch my soul with a story I hope to pass down to my grandchildren someday, it proved there is humanity in crowd control, where you might otherwise be an invisible identity among thousands. There are personalities that spread beautiful energy to others, and you’ll find them if you’re looking. There are delightful nurturers out there who really care — about you, your health, and your happiness (even as you do something as mundane as wait in line).

There are far more good people in the world than there are bad.

So don’t be afraid to smile under your mask. Just remember the five acts of love I witnessed, and do your part to expand this list:

#1. The ‘Happy Friday’ greeting — spreading cheer and optimism

#2. Expectations setting (and storytelling) — caring about others’ experiences

#3. Mutual respect — professionally delivering trust and order

#4. Unbiased compassion — showing consistent empathy toward everyone

#5. Abundant volunteers — generously devoting their time for humanity

Thank you to all the COVID-19 workers and volunteers for helping to keep us safe.


The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.



Deep Tech Product Leader, creative writer, and published artist. Writes about personal growth, leadership, writing, and product development.

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Kimberly Shyu

Deep Tech Product Leader, creative writer, and published artist. Writes about personal growth, leadership, writing, and product development.