How many of us get the opportunity to do something really great in our lifetimes? Sure, we can get married, make a life, have children and contribute to our communities, but how many of us do something that saves thousands of lives and terrible suffering? 

For my generation growing up in the 1950s, we had that opportunity. Many families in what should have been carefree summers lived in dread of the scourge of polio. We had all seen pictures of children in iron lungs or knew kids at school with braces on their legs. It was a scary time for me. 

I also had the stories told to me by my grandmother of her childhood in the late 1800s, when her mother had once hidden her sister in the oven to keep her from being taken from their home and put in quarantine out of the fears of common childhood diseases. My mother told of going to school and seeing empty seats and learning of classmates who had suddenly died of some illness. The only protection my mother had was a bag my grandmother hung around her neck filled with foul smelling herbs. Of course, that offered no protection against disease, but it gave my mother some peace of mind. 

When we had the chance of getting real help in avoiding polio and other childhood diseases, we jumped at it. We rolled up our sleeves and got in line. All of my friends had the telltale round scar on their upper arms that showed that we were vaccinated against smallpox. We gladly suffered through our polio vaccine shots so we could enjoy a worry-free summer. Today, my grandchildren no longer need to have the smallpox vaccination. Enough people were vaccinated that the disease had no one to transmit it, so it died out

Each one of us who lined up to be vaccinated was a link in a chain that had to have enough links in it to defeat each disease. Each link was as important as any other, as all were needed to stop the disease. If the chain didn’t have enough children willing to be vaccinated, children would still be living in iron lungs and dying of smallpox. Looking back on my life I realize that the greatest thing I ever did was roll up my sleeve and become one important link in a chain that defeated smallpox, polio and other childhood diseases.

Today, ordinary citizens such as me have a similar opportunity to do something great in their lives. My friends from my generation, in their 70s and 80s, were very anxious to help defeat the COVID-19 virus and called each other to find out where to get available shots.

This is your chance to do something great in your life and save hundreds of lives and heartache. At least 70% to 80% of us need to be vaccinated. More links in the vaccination chain need to be forged, and the sooner the better. Don’t be one of the people responsible for letting the virus win. Do something truly great in your life.