Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“Together”: Doesn’t seem that way August 4, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

ON PAGES 444 and 445 of my 2003 Webster’s New World Thesaurus, I read synonyms for the word together. (Jointly) collectively, unitedly, commonly…

Clearly, together means everyone working toward a common goal/purpose for the good of all.

Many times people have come together, especially during disasters, to help others. I recall when my second daughter traveled twice to New Orleans to help with clean-up after Hurricane Katrina. Recently, rescuers worked tirelessly to find victims and survivors following the collapse of a condo in Surfside, Florida. Locally, folks are providing financial support for a professional juggler who broke both wrists after falling from a ladder during a performance.

These examples of togetherness, rooted in genuine care for others, encourage me. They give me hope. They uplift me.

Together and togetherness as defined in the Fourth Edition of Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


As I reflect further, though, I grow disheartened. Disheartened because, as much as the “We’re all in this together” motto defines many official/marketing statements about COVID-19, I don’t feel it. I don’t see it. I don’t experience it. Perhaps it’s time for public health officials and others to ditch the word together as it relates to this global pandemic.

I suggest tapping into personal experiences, sharing the stories of those who’ve experienced COVID at its worst, to perhaps reach those who remain skeptics about every facet of this virus and vaccines. Stories hold power in a way that generalizations don’t.

Like many, I feel such frustration that COVID is now back full force in the much more contagious and deadly delta variant. This didn’t need to happen…if only people would get vaccinated. I’m thankful to read that vaccination rates are rising. I hope that continues.

In the meantime, my county of Rice is among 45 (as of Monday) Minnesota counties in the high or substantial risk categories for community transmission of COVID. The Minnesota Department of Health, following CDC guidelines, recommends everyone (regardless of vaccination status), wears a face mask indoors in public settings. Yes, even those of us who are vaccinated can spread the virus, which is why we, too, must mask.


Now some retailers, colleges, entertainment venues and more in Minnesota are embracing those CDC guidelines and reinstating masking. For that I feel great gratitude.

My healthcare provider has also joined a growing number of providers requiring vaccination of all employees. Finally. I have never understood how anyone in the medical profession (and that includes those working in long-term care and assisted living) can, ethically or morally, continue to care for patients/residents while unvaccinated. And, looking at it from a patient perspective, I don’t want an unvaccinated nurse/doctor/lab tech/whoever near me, even if I am vaccinated.

One source for the definition of “together.” Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.


That brings me to education. I really struggle with preschool-high schools that are not requiring students and staff to wear face masks going into the new school year. I fail to understand that thinking. Our public health officials tell us that masking is one very basic, and easy, way to help stop the spread of COVID. My concern focuses primarily on those under age 12, who can’t yet be vaccinated. Schools owe it to children, like my 5-year-old granddaughter, to implement the strongest health and safety protocols possible. Teachers fought last year for the best protection for themselves, and rightly so. Protecting our kids is equally as important.

When I hear people say, “Well, just keep your child home or send them to school in a mask,” I cringe. Most parents want their kids in the classroom. And putting the burden of protecting himself/herself on a young child seems pretty selfish and childish behavior on the part of adults. Most kids prefer to “fit it” with their peers. A parent may send their child to school with the directive to “wear your mask.” But we all know that doesn’t mean they will, especially if masking is optional and their classmates are mask-less.

Where’s the compassion, the care, the willingness to provide access to education for all in a safe school environment? It’s best, from a health and safety perspective, to require (rather than recommend) face masks in schools for everyone.

So, yeah, I’m not seeing much togetherness during this global pandemic. I’m disheartened. I’m disappointed. And, yes, I’m even angry. I feel like, just as we were making progress in ending the pandemic, we are now back to START, farther than ever from the FINISH LINE. I’m beyond frustrated. (Just like Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.)

That all said, we can decide, right now, to work together. to mask up, to get vaccinated, to make choices that protect ourselves and each other. To end this pandemic sooner rather than later.

NOTE: I welcome readers’ comments. However, if you are anti-vaccine or anti-mask, I will not give voice to those viewpoints on this, my personal blog. As always, with any posts, I screen/moderate comments and determine which I will, or won’t, publish.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


24 Responses to ““Together”: Doesn’t seem that way”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Disheartening is the perfect word to describe how I feel. I too feel discouraged and frustrated and angry. People have been given a lot of different information about Covid snd I bet those newscasters fueling skepticism in their viewers, that they have been vaccinated although they encourage others to not be.

    • That’s especially disheartening to hear of newscasters fueling skepticism. I haven’t heard that from media sources I follow. But I don’t doubt that.

      I feel thankful for places like NYC now requiring proof of vaccination. I feel thankful for the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul now requiring masks inside government spaces. I feel thankful for businesses that are doing the same, with some even requiring vaccination of employees.

      My concern for my mom, who is in hospice in a long-term care center, is once again growing. I know not all staff are vaccinated.

      Stay well, Ruth, and thank you for caring.

  2. All very valid points. “Together” also means equality for all in the World! How can anyone in the US complain when so many in the world don’t even have access to the vaccine? This is a dangerous time for all world citizens. Why is it that the US is allowing their citizens to travel the world as tourists yet those persons who want to visit the US and are fully vaccinated can not? Seems a bit arrogant and dangerous approach to me. There are many inequalities going on with this entire situation over the last year and half. Let’s look at the leaders and hold them accountable, let’s stop watching social media for the answers and start finding the solutions ourselves when leadership fails. Sadly… I feel we are only just starting to feel even worse times ahead. As always keep writing for your community and keep bringing these issues to the front of the line. Creative solutions are out there! Be safe and take care of each other should be everyone’s mantra right now.

    • Dear Paula, as always I appreciate your thoughtful comment. You offer insights from a global perspective, not something I focused on in this post. You’re right regarding the points you make about the US. We have the vaccine readily available here, yet too many are choosing not to get vaccinated. Many in other counties wish they had vaccines. I think of my friend whose son and family flew here from Brazil to get vaccinated. Most people don’t have the ability or financial resources to do that.

      I appreciate how you end your comment on a positive note, encouraging us to seek creative solutions. I’d love to hear your ideas. And, yes, being safe and taking care of one another should be our global mantra.

  3. Susan Ready Says:

    You have made many valid points in your blog today but there seem to be enough people out there who feel their rights being violated being told what to do. They can’t get past the “me” and look at the common good for the “whole”. Keep on writing and perhaps your voice will reach a resistant soul and invoke change.

  4. Larry Gavin Says:

    From Woodtick races to this? Wow. Listened to a republican senator from LA this morning. She and her husband “prayed on it” unfortunately he caught COVID two weeks before the vaccines were available. No other conditions. Then she “prayed on his treatment” called both sets of parents they all “prayed on it”. He died.
    Most anti vaccine folks didn’t pass high school biology. And they hate smart people and lack empathy. I spend a bunch of time with rednecks. Because I have hound dogs, hunt and fish. I love those guys but they are not scientists (except when it comes to genetics) I also fish with Dr. Osterholm (not lately he’s busy) he’s been studying pandemics for 40 years. He has zero political or religious bias. If he says it; it is fact.COVID will continue to mutate.
    Wear a mask, get vaccinated, then go to a woodtick race I promise only the tourists will have the shot or be wearing a mask. Interesting
    I’m a Johnson and Johnson guy myself. Wear a mask in public places. My entire family is vaccinated including my twelve year old step grandson. You must be expecting responses like this.

    • Oh, Larry, I always appreciate hearing from you, a fellow writer. I expect honesty. I expect humor. I expect insights. You deliver.

      I feel the same about Dr. Michael Osterholm. I trust him. I interviewed him about 45 years ago while working as a reporter for the Gaylord Hub. The topic: A hepatitis outbreak at the local school traced to a music teacher. I thought highly of him then and feel the same all these decades later. I choose to believe the experts. Science is not my strength.

      I’m thankful to hear your family is vaccinated and doing everything you can to keep yourselves safe. And, yes, I expect you are correct on “only the tourists will be vaccinated and wearing masks.” Of course, that’s a generalization with exceptions, but from what I’ve observed, I mostly agree.

      Stay well, my writer friend.

  5. Disheartening, for sure, Audrey! It feels like we are back at square one! 😦

  6. As you know I am right there with you. I am happy that all of my family who can be ( not the littles yet) have been vaccinated and understand the science behind this. They are not scared of the vaccine . They are using their brains to make good decisions. I am hopeful that people will continue to get vaccinated – it isn’t too late until it is.

    • I’m thankful your family understands the science and chose vaccination. I can’t say the same for all of my extended family and some friends. Your final statement rings true: “It isn’t too late until it is.” I wish people would realize that. I’ve heard repeatedly in recent weeks from health officials who say, “If you’re not vaccinated, COVID will find you.” I don’t want the virus to find our kids, especially those who are too young for vaccination.

  7. I am grateful I work for a health system that provides resources with good, solid information to make informed decisions. The organization is community-based and as employees we are the role models in our communities (staying healthy, wearing masks, getting vaccinated, etc.). Where I live is in the hot seat again. We have some great leadership, however; we all have a part in this. Appreciate you sharing. I am trying to stay in the positive mind set, but let myself feel the feels too and move on. Take Care

    • It sounds like you work for a wonderful health based organization. Thank you for setting a good example during this pandemic.

      I feel for anyone living in Florida, including you. Today my county of Rice moved into the “high” community transmission status, up from “substantial.”

  8. Sandra Says:

    Wow, what an intelligent group of followers you have! The CDC map is complex, raw data, but just that, raw. If I check in weekly, the news keeps me current and if my shopping places go masked, we’ll know. The church has already put all Sept. planned choir returns on hold, there will be other reversals….like they have a choice. At least VBS happened. Until now, I haven’t known anyone anti-vaccine or careless personally, just the opposite. I do now, which doesn’t help my disgust at all this. One thing for the bugs to mutate, but this sick freedom, anti mentality shouldn’t be allowed. There is a place for marshall law, if that’s what it’s called. Helpless kids, for heaven’s sale! I’m with Penny, square one. My AZ daughter and hubby have a whole red state, no map needed. Her old cat is sick. That makes sense! This doesn’t. Glad to see you back in the flora and fauna again today. Gorgeous flowers!

    • Sandra, as always I welcome your thoughts. I’m thankful you don’t know anyone who is anti-vaccine. Unfortunately, I do, including some extended family members, friends and acquaintances. I’m frustrated. Angry. Not understanding. Their choice affects/endangers everyone and perpetuates this pandemic.

      Mostly I worry now about those 11 and under who are too young for vaccination. Adults who aren’t vaccinated are making the choice not to be vaccinated and likely have no intention of ever getting the vaccine. That’s my take. Perhaps something will change their minds…like losing a loved one or seeing a loved one get really sick or experiencing severe COVID themselves.

      I’m happy to hear your church is taking lots of precautions. Things have been back to “normal” at Trinity since early June. Now with Rice County being in the high community transmission category, some safety measures are likely coming back. Until, and if, that happens, I will not be attending in-person worship. I need to feel comfortable and I’m not right now. I’ll decide on whether to continue my pause once I hear the plan.

      Take care. Stay well. Mask up.

      • Sandra Says:

        You misunderstood – I didn’t know anyone refusing vaccination, now I do, which makes now that much more disappointing. Boosters are imminent. My neighbor has given hours it’s ok to vent on my piano which is generous, it’s a chapel oak upright Everett, gotten me through a lot in life. She’d appreciate not all hymns though. You take care as well.

      • I’m sorry I misunderstood. I so wish you didn’t know people refusing vaccination.

        Out and about in Faribault this morning, only a few people were wearing masks in public places. Not at the grocery store. Not at the library. Three out of four post office customers wore masks, but not the postal clerk. I don’t get it. The CDC recommends masks in our high community transmission of COVID county. Although I’m vaccinated and trust the vaccine, I want to do everything I can to protect myself and others.

        Oh, and at the grocery store, the teenaged clerk touched around on her mouth (I’m sure something she didn’t even realize she did) and then touched/checked out all of my groceries. Sigh. No mask on her either or any grocery store employees that I saw.

  9. Sandra Says:

    That is disheartening. Most of our service folks are back in masks, not customers. I did go to city hall for license tabs, the clerk wasn’t masked but behind an ominous plexiglass barrier. Gov. Walz needs emergency powers back, clamp down on this madness. The young people deserve that much from their adults. Not the loss of another year. Hugs!

    • I agree that Gov. Walz needs to step up and DO SOMETHING. It’s like he’s abandoned the COVID situation. We also need the teachers’ union to step up and “demand” masking in all Minnesota schools. They were a strong force last year in being first in line for vaccination. Now they need to show the same level of concern for students. I also think parents have a right to know whether their child’s teacher (s) has/have been vaccinated. (Yeah, I know, not gonna happen due to HIPPA.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.