A few decades ago, I left my familiar surroundings in Idaho and trekked to the East Coast to spend a little more than a year as a proselytizing missionary for my church. Those young people who go door-to-door in dress clothes and sensible shoes sharing messages about some guy who lived a few thousand years ago? That was me. (I was the one with the particularly ill-fitting blazer with shoulder pads so bulky that the ‘80s called and requested that I not send them back — that’s how bad they were.)

Missionary work could be brutal. The days were long, the pay was nonexistent (literally — it was all volunteer work), and the efforts were not always well received. People yelled at us, slammed doors in our faces; one woman even spit a wad of gum into my hair.

The worst of it all, though, were the bouts of Bible bashing. If you’re not familiar with Bible bashing, the Good Book itself doesn’t take a beating. Rather two parties figuratively bludgeon one another with verses within the Bible to prove that their foe has an inferior understanding of doctrine. It was a maddening exercise, and never a fruitful one. Arguments could go ‘round and ‘round ad nauseum with zero chance of anyone being convinced of the error of their ways.

I was particularly good at Bible bashing, which is to say I was so totally focused on winning the argument that I completely lost sight of what my actual purpose as a missionary was — to invite others to share in the things that had brought peace and joy into my life.

Eventually, though, I realized that I never actually won — no one did. As a poorly dressed volunteer evangelist, I finally caught on that my job wasn’t to prove anything to anyone — my job was to point people in the direction of those who had helped me recognize truth and to share from the heart my personal beliefs.

Last week my three youngest children received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I could cite all the literature that my husband and I read about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in the various age groups. I could share stories and anecdotal evidence in spades. Then someone else could produce their own literature and their own friend-of-a-friend accounts. Our “proof” could come from the same studies, even, just with different interpretations — totally contradictory conclusions, even. We can’t both be right — not with such diametrically opposed points of view — but if we’re not going to change each other’s mind then what does it matter who’s right or wrong?

Instead I’ll tell you what I believe: I believe that the vaccines are safe and effective. I believe that our children need and deserve the protection they can provide, and that widespread vaccination is how we can evict this virus from the place of prominence in our lives it has held onto for far too long.

I acknowledge that there is contradictory and confusing, even scary, information out there regarding COVID-19 vaccines. There’s a lot of data that can be easily misunderstood or misinterpreted and it can be challenging to sift through the diverse statements all being presented as facts.

Because of that, I’ll tell you who I trust: a special group of individuals who are uniquely qualified to understand complex and new advancements and to help people make decisions about their health based on individualized risk-benefit analyses. These primary care physicians in our area — internists, family medicine physicians, and pediatricians — overwhelmingly endorse the vaccine for all currently approved age groups. Many of them are volunteering their own time and resources to facilitate mass vaccination efforts in order to provide protection to as many members of our community as possible.

I believe in the COVID-19 vaccines. I believe that they save lives and prevent suffering. I have no doubt that vaccinating my children was the right choice, in large part because it’s a decision I made in consultation with our trusted pediatrician.

More than I want to be right (and I’ll admit I still very much want to be right) I want everyone to have confidence in their own vaccination decision — the same confidence I had when I wore those awful shoulder pads, the same confidence my physician has in the vaccine, and the same confidence I have in my physician.

Stellmon set sail for a three-hour tour on the Palouse in 2001. She is now happily marooned in Moscow with her spouse and five children.

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