In this Aug. 17, 2021, file photo, nursing coordinator Beth Springer looks into a patient's room in a COVID-19 ward at the Willis-Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport, La. Credit: Gerald Herbert / AP

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I wonder if we are too protected from the horrors of this pestilence, this plague. Many of us treat it like a plastic wrapped hamburger we carelessly toss into a grocery cart. We push aside the butchery. Let’s not talk about the uncomfortable images. Let’s just eat the hamburger.

Recently a family friend in Iowa has been fighting COVID pneumonia. He is still recovering, and it will be a long journey. He is in his mid-sixties. He is a farmer. A Boy Scout leader. A school board member. A husband and a father. We can picture those familiar titles, can’t we. But what I couldn’t hear was his labored breathing, and what I couldn’t see were his blue lips, all signs of a body struggling to get enough oxygen.

Maybe hospital walls should be made of glass. Then we could all take a walk through the COVID wards across America because a nightmare is the only thing that is going to wake us up. Let’s inspect the butchery up close. But not too close because I wouldn’t want anyone’s lips, especially the lips of those who refuse to get vaccinated, to turn blue.

Like the color of the sea in a storm.

Gregory Greenleaf