One Chicago teenager is making a difference during the pandemic one senior citizen at a time.
In January, Benjamin Kagan, age fourteen, helped his grandparents sign up for COVID vaccinations, not realizing it would open a door to help hundreds of other senior adults who were having problems getting signed up.
The high school freshman learned to navigate the complex online system when he signed up his grandparents. Then a journalist talked to his virtual class on career day, urging the students to watch a news segment about a Chicago Vaccine Hunters group.
Benjamin realized that his newfound vaccine registration skills were needed and started sharing tips in the online group while on winter break last month. His messenger box was soon overflowing with requests for help from people who said they were too slow or technologically unskilled to sign up for the vaccines.
Developing a resource
Benjamin organized a group of volunteers, which they call Chicago Vaccine Angels, and got busy. Most of his work is done at midnight.
“I have to do my schoolwork. And school’s obviously my number one priority, so it’s going to be a difficult balance to keep,” he said.
Benjamin heard a lot of sad stories from the people he was helping: stage 4 cancer victims who are afraid of dying if they get COVID, senior adults who want to see their grandchildren (some for the first time), and others who are isolated and want to see their families.
He is the best resource that many of the people he has worked with can find.
“He’s one amazing young man,” one woman he helped said in an interview. “I’m probably going to see him on a poster running for president some day, because he cares so much about people.”
The pace shows no signs of slowing down. It’s a lot to juggle with school, which has returned to in-person learning, but Benjamin will continue to help as long as there are so many people who need his help registering for vaccines.
The call to help where we can
There is a lesson to be learned from this young student, who is using his computer skills to help not only his grandparents, but also hundreds of other senior adults, get vaccinated. He saw a need, and he stepped up.
Jesus had compassion on the crowds often gathered around him because they were “like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). And, he also saw the need for helpers. He told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (vv. 37–38).
The verses in The Message translation says Jesus’ heart broke for the crowds. Wherever he went, he felt compassion on those around him. He saw their needs and met them, whether physical or spiritual. He healed them, he fed them, and he taught them.
How often do we look with compassion at those around us with a prayer and willingness to make a difference in their lives?
With the pandemic and the harsh winter storms that have wreaked havoc on lives, we have more opportunities now than ever before.
I admire Benjamin for seeing a need and making sacrifices to make a difference.
My desire is to see and love others through the eyes and heart of Jesus. The chorus from “Hosanna” by Brooke Fraser of Hillsong says what I want to become my prayer:
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love
Like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am
For Your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity
I may not be a technology whiz like Benjamin, but there are other ways I can make a difference in my world—starting now.