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Individual and Societal Responsibilities

I cannot imagine what was going through the minds of parents as they sent their children back to school.

Though there have been instances of violence at our schools over the past decade, the threat of COVID-19 probably overshadows concerns about a school shooting. The prospect of either is something that no parent should have to worry about. I like the concept of protecting the young student (who cannot yet be vaccinated) by surrounding them with adults who are vaccinated.

Nonetheless, it is disappointing to see the disinformation that surrounds the current COVID-19 vaccines. Potentially, the recent designation of the Pfizer vaccine as being approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective will dispel some of the concerns that some people have over vaccination. I am still concerned about those who can but refuse to be vaccinated.

We have found that vaccination does not necessarily mean that you cannot be infected with the delta variant of the coronavirus. I have had patients who were vaccinated earlier this year need hospitalization for COVID-19. The illness was mild and they were all discharged from the hospital in no worse shape than when they were admitted.

It is good to see our temple leaders use current information to make adjustments to decisions that are being made at our temples. At the Midwest Buddhist Temple, they recently began to hold in-person services. With the surge of cases of the delta variant, they have again stopped in-person services.

At the Jodo Shinshu Center and at our headquarters building, we have started to talk about reopening. Earlier this summer, I thought we might be able to reopen sometime this fall. Now, it appears that neither building will be opening until next year.

We have always been told to “protect all who are weaker than ourselves.” This is especially true when it comes to pandemics and the spread of an illness that has the potential to kill and sometimes leave survivors with longstanding symptoms. The decisions that each of us make in response to the pandemic can affect those around us, be they family or complete strangers. I applaud those temples that have a committee dealing with reopening and the changes that they are making at their temples to ensure that everyone is safe.

We have also recently seen what happens when we end a decades long war in a faraway country and try to bring our troops home. In the course of 20 years, one would have hoped that someone would have worked on an exit strategy from a country that was invaded. Although the system of government we put in place had its drawbacks, I don’t think many of us expected Afghanistan to be overrun by the Taliban so quickly. What that means to our country in the future will be determined. For now, we are dealing with trying to evacuate and care for those who no longer feel safe living in what was once their home.

Whether we look at the decisions that we make as an individual, community, or country, the principle of “protecting all who are weaker than ourselves” sounds like a good one.

Elsewhere in this month’s issue is Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada’s column about the recent death of Jeff Folick. He was one of our temple leaders at the Orange County Buddhist Church and was a longtime member of the BCA National Board and Endowment Foundation.

He was an embodiment of “protecting all who are weaker” through his work at the temple, national level, and philanthropy. He was someone who looked at the bigger picture and its repercussions. I will miss him.


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