What does a theater director do when the stage lights are dark?

That’s been a tough question all year. But this past week, I finally had an opportunity to use my skills.

I volunteered at a mass vaccination site, run by the Virginia Health Department. I’m not a nurse, so I couldn’t give shots, but it turns out there are lots of other needs. When I got there, the nurse in charge literally said, “The main thing I need is someone to make sure that people are prepared and direct them where they need to go, and make sure they have everything ready. Can you direct people?”

I said, “That is literally the only thing I am good at!”

Ready to get some shots in those arms!

I helped organize people in the line, verified their paperwork, made them keep their distance (Viewpoints!), and helped calm the nervous. We were working at a local poultry plant, so lots of the people didn’t speak English. The plant provided translators for Spanish, Haitian Creole, Kurdish, and Arabic. My high school Spanish came in handy—I couldn’t translate anything complex, but I could answer basic questions and help people out with their forms. I found myself having the same problem that many of my theater friends do in their second languages—my accent far outpaces my grammar and vocabulary, so I would look over a person’s form, and hand it back, saying, “Gracias. Está todo bien,” and they’d respond with a fast stream of Spanish that I was completely unable to parse. Sometimes that well-trained ear is a curse!

I was very impressed with the organization from the VDH, the other volunteer services (primarily the local fire & rescue), and the plant. Everything ran extremely smoothly. We got over 500 poultry workers vaccinated in under six hours. The nurses kept thanking me for volunteering, and I just kept thinking how frustrating and guilt-inducing it has been to sit on my hands for the past year, wishing there was anything I could do while my friends and family members who are doctors, epidemiologists, and nurses have been destroying themselves to save the world. Being able to do something concrete to help, and to bring the light at the end of the tunnel 500 people closer? That’s a privilege.

And—bonus!—at the end of the day, they had three doses left. First of all, let’s just pause to appreciate how close they came to estimating the exact right number of doses. Only three left! Out of hundreds! Impressive! They wanted to use those up, and so I was able to get my first shot (Moderna, no side effects).

I’ve had a lot of satisfying volunteer experiences in my life, but this was, in many dimensions, one of the most satisfying. I can hardly wait to do it again!

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