Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Looking beyond ourselves to the broader community June 24, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Early in the pandemic, the Rare Pair in Northfield posted this sign on the front door. While social distancing and masking are no longer required in Minnesota, the overall message of LOVE OTHERS can apply to vaccination. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2020.

AS THE BAND PLAYED, as the scent of gyros wafted in the breeze, as the summer day drew to a close in Central Park during Faribault’s Heritage Days celebration, I engaged in a conversation that left me frustrated. The subject: COVID-19 vaccination.

For some 10 minutes, an acquaintance and I discussed the vaccine, specifically his refusal to get vaccinated. I tried to be respectful as I listened to his belief that COVID is no worse than the flu and his assessment that, if he gets the virus, he expects a mild case. He’s around my age, in his 60s. I politely disagreed with his assessment of COVID and stated no one really knows how their body will react to the virus. In our county of Rice 110 people, ranging in age from 24 to 104, have died from COVID.

I shared stories about those, with a connection to Randy and me, who have died of COVID. Those deaths didn’t seem to matter. He acknowledged hearing my concerns, but remained unswayed.


When he called his co-workers at a local factory “paranoid” about COVID, I felt myself losing patience. There’s nothing paranoid about concern, about taking precautions, about preventing the spread of a potentially deadly virus. There’s nothing paranoid about caring for your own health and the health of humanity by choosing vaccination.

In hindsight, had I known I would have this conversation, I would have taken a different approach—emphasizing that the decision whether to get vaccinated or not stretches beyond our individual selves to our families, friends, neighbors, and yes, even our co-workers. Even to strangers.

My acquaintance, while seemingly unconcerned about his own health, should feel a sense of responsibility to his community. I wonder how he would feel if he exposed someone to COVID and that person died or suffered long-term health issues. I would struggle with guilt.


Not only do I struggle with my acquaintance’s refusal to get vaccinated, but I really struggle with those employed in healthcare settings who are refusing vaccination. At my local hospital, about 37% percent of staff remains unvaccinated, according to a recent story in the Faribault Daily News. They are putting patients at risk by that choice. The same goes for those who work with our elderly and most vulnerable in long-term care centers. Where is the sense of care for others, of respecting science, of maintaining health in a place devoted to health?


To those of you who have chosen vaccination, thank you. Thank you for protecting yourselves, those you love and the broader community. Because of your choice, we are seeing a significant drop in COVID cases. Vaccines are working. That decline doesn’t apply everywhere, though. In states like Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, where vaccination rates are especially low, COVID cases are still prevalent, according to media reports. And the highly-contagious Delta variant is quickly spreading, accounting for 20% of new COVID cases in the U.S. This pandemic isn’t over yet and I’m concerned for those who aren’t getting, or can’t yet be, vaccinated. Like my acquaintance. And my young grandchildren. And others I know who refuse to trust and accept that vaccines work.


In closing, I want to share one final story. A friend’s son and his family are flying from their home in Brazil to Minnesota to get vaccinated. Vaccination is many months away for them in a country hit especially hard by COVID. Their oldest daughter, who has Downs Syndrome and thus is especially vulnerable to the virus, is their primary concern. Think about that for a moment. We can’t give away vaccines in this country. People are refusing them. And here we have a family of four flying some 5,000 miles to get vaccinated. They trust the science. They want to protect themselves. They understand that COVID-19 can be worse than the flu. They are part of our global family and I feel thankful that they are choosing vaccination.

If you are not yet vaccinated, please get vaccinated. Your decision is about more than you. It’s about all of us. Your family. Your friends. Your neighbors. Your co-workers. Your community. Your world.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Looking beyond ourselves to the broader community”

  1. I have family that won’t get vaccinated. There are those out there, more than you would think, that still believe in conspiracy theories about the vaccine. I just don’t understand…

  2. Becky Richie Says:

    Thanks for your beautiful story. We are vaccinated and believe it what we should do. Glad you agree.

  3. Bernadette Arlene Thomasy Says:

    That is a powerful story about the family from Brazil flying here for vaccination against COVID. I hope your post will move more people to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors. We have to keep trying to encourage people.

    • I agree about the family from Brazil.

      Sometimes it feels futile, trying to encourage vaccination. I feel especially frustrated by the misinformation and how this still seems so “political.” The lies people still believe…are, well, unbelievable.

  4. Gunny Says:

    I would submit that this is a personal choice that each individual makes based on several personal / individual issues. I know of people who have compromised immune systems. Even their doctors suggest they NOT take the vaccine. A person very close to me struggled with ailments that were causing a deterioration in their health for over 2 years visiting “specialists” all to no avail. Not ONE specialist could pin down what the problem was. So, don’t expect me or others to buy totally into the current “science” spouted by Doctor X. Some of those who HAVE taken the vaccine are now experiencing other health issues. At this point in my life, I take guarded steps when it comes to issues affecting my health. Yes, I am vaccinated. Yes, I know others who are not. I consider it their choice. Maybe not a wise choice, but then again, for them it may be a very smart move. Is this political? Well one has to scrutinize the Yeas and Nays coming off of the political podiums. Currently, health “passports” are being considered for U.S. Citizens! No such thing is even being considered to the thousands of illegal immigrants crossing our borders daily. Just an observation. Do what is best for you and your family!

    • Gunny, thank you for sharing your thoughts. As in the past, we will have to choose to respectfully disagree on many points.

      That said, I do recognize that some people cannot be vaccinated due to specific health concerns. I just did not get into all of that in my initial post.

      Thank you for choosing vaccination.

  5. Sheri Eichhorn Says:

    I, like you, have a really hard time with those who are not getting vaccinated. And often they wear that refusal like a badge of honor. If only this pandemic had not been politicized. If only. I pray that people can come to realize that science is the only tool they need with which to assess their decision to vaccinate.

  6. Judy Says:

    Good post Audrey, thank you. I am vaccinated.

  7. Excellent post, Audrey. I have a friend who is a transplant patient, immunosuppressed because of anti-rejection drugs. She got vaccinated and was very disappointed to learn that she did not develop antibodies (anti-rejection drugs doing their job) even though she hoped she might. If she gets COVID, she’s very likely to experience a severe and perhaps fatal case. She cannot be around people who are unvaccinated unless they are masked and keep their distance from her. Vaccinations absolutely save lives even beyond the lives of those who got the vaccine. And the children who are unvaccinated because they are too young for the currently available vaccinations are not immune to getting severe or fatal complications; it’s a matter of odds. I have no patience with those who refuse to get vaccinated. The science is clear that this is the best choice in saving lives.

    • I agree with every single point you make, Kathleen. I, too, am frustrated by those who don’t trust the science, spew falsehoods, endanger others by refusing vaccination, etc. Your friend is a prime example of how choices we make affect others. I’m sorry for the risks she faces.

      Today Rice County recorded another COVID death, that of someone in their low 50s. That makes the 111th person in my county to die from COVID. That’s a lot of friends, families, etc., grieving.

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