It’s 8:15 am of an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday and I am in sitting in a flimsy chair in the unsuspecting parking lot of a Walgreens. Trucks zoom by the busy intersection that seems to cradle the corner of the parking lot, and the pop-up tent above my head sways in the wind, leading me to raise questions as to whether the simple strings that attach it to the folding table charged with keeping it in place will be able to hold. It’s a bit chilly — at least for San Diego standards, anyway — and I did not bring a sweater.
But none of that really matters: I am getting my second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Here, in the most anti-climatic of places, I am experiencing a life-altering moment. I am benefiting from years of medical research to come up with rapid ways to develop new vaccines for serious illnesses. The same research leveraged by Pfizer, Moderna, and others to develop a vaccine for the SARS-COV-2 virus in record time. Thousands of medical professionals have worked diligently for God-knows-how-long so that I could receive that shot in that parking lot. Well, they may not exactly have envisioned the parking lot part, but it nevertheless is significant.
That small Walgreens parking lot is a far cry from the aesthetics we have come to imagine of life-changing moments. None of the glitz, none of the glamour. Just some blacktop, a tent, and a few chairs and tables a couple of feet away from where some of our homeless neighbors have spent the night. It is significant, though, because it is emblematic of life in many ways.
In a society where production value matters a lot, where we spend a lot of time and energy framing the shot just right to highlight our best features while we photograph what we are having for lunch to share with people we hope will like us, that parking lot is none of that. But it is where that life-saving vaccine is finding its way into my left arm.
And it makes me wonder how many everyday miracles happen in our lives every day and in the most unlikely of places. The miracle of mothers and fathers who stretch themselves thin to be able to take their kids to that extra tutoring or enrichment activity; that neighbor who goes out of her way to help the elderly couple down the street get groceries without living their home during the COVID quarantine; that teacher who has lost her father to COVID late last year and now devotes some of her free time to helping others who can’t navigate the medical system well enough to book their appointments to receive their vaccine. The list goes on. Everyday miracles going on everywhere, far from the limelight and away from our attention.
Do we do a good enough job of taking stock of the great things in our lives, even if they don’t always present themselves in their best Sunday clothes? How often do we recognize our everyday “Walgreen miracles”? What would it take to do it, and how would we feel if we did?
No doubt each one of us will have our own answers. But on that Wednesday at the beginning of April, I wait for 15-minutes in a folding chair in a worn-out parking lot after having the miracle of medical research injected into my arm before, grateful, I go.