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This past week has been an emotional roller coaster for the NFL and beyond. Last Monday night, with millions watching what was one of the most anticipated games of the NFL regular season, Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin made a good hard tackle, immediately got up, and then fell flat on his back. Soon the looks on the players’ faces made clear this was not just another injury. Hamlin’s heart had stopped, and only after long minutes of CPR was it restarted.

It was obvious the other players were in no emotional condition to resume the game after an ambulance took Hamlin away with no certainty that he would survive. The game was suspended and later cancelled and made a no contest.

Two remarkable things happened in the days afterward. First, a lot of platformed people became enthusiastic about prayer. I’m not talking about just posting “thoughts and prayers”; people you would not expect were getting really serious about prayer. In one notable instance, on live TV, on ESPN no less, analyst and former player Dan Orlovsky led two other analysts in prayer with their hearty agreement.

Second, after about two days, it was obvious that Damar Hamlin was making a remarkable recovery, even talking with friends and family once his breathing tube was taken out. And he enthusiastically watched and tweeted the Bills next game on Sunday. His exchanges of “I love you” with players and fans were particularly heartwarming. Further he tweeted, “God Using Me In A Different Way Today.” (And as I was in the process of writing this, he was released from the hospital to go home!)

After a week in which millions learned hard lessons about the fragility of life, the importance and power of prayer, and that God can and does answer prayer in often remarkable ways, God was indeed using Damar Hamlin in a different way than this society is used to. Let us pray that millions allow those lessons to sink in as we continue to pray for Hamlin’s recovery.

But I fear we are about to learn, again, another lesson that will not have such a happy ending — that trust lost is not easily earned back.

As I write this a full week after the injury, we have not yet been told by the NFL or by medical authorities just what happened to Damar Hamlin. That is fueling speculation that this was a COVID vaccine related injury. Of course, many of the usual vaccine supporters are rather vehement in denouncing such speculation.

I do not presume to know what brought down Hamlin. But I do know two things — and you can place these under “two things you can believe at the same time.”

First, we have had vital information withheld from us the past three years about COVID and COVID vaccines while many government and corporate authorities have pressured and often required taking the vaccines. That is putting it nicely, mind you. And the NFL pressured players to take the vaccine although allowing the several who refused the shots to play, Green Bay QB Aaron Rogers among them.

Second, and at the same time, there are times hearts stop and we never find out why. Life is that fragile. And medical science is not omniscient. I lost my mom, who was an athlete also, a ranked tennis player, that way back when I was 13. She was only in her 30’s. The cause of her heart stoppage and death was put down as unknown.

Damar’s collapse is unusual. I have avidly watched NFL football for over fifty years and cannot recall a similar instance that was not a head injury. (And by all indications, this wasn’t a head injury.) But unusual heart stoppages have occurred before COVID and COVID vaccines as I know all too well.

But the problem is, should we eventually be told the cause of Hamlin’s heart stopping had nothing to do with COVID vaccines or that the cause is unknown, millions will not trust that determination no matter how accurate it might be. And I can hardly blame such distrust. If I were an NFL player, my trust would be close to zero.

For if one lies or even just withholds important information often enough, trust is lost and is beyond difficult to regain. And authorities have been withholding information from us about COVID and the vaccines for years now with great cost to us even as they applied great pressure to take them. And there has been a lot of misleading from anti-vaccine sources as well.

Personally, I long ago got to the point where there are very few on either side that I trust on the subject. Much of the time, when I am told something about COVID or the vaccines, I put that down as “Well, that’s what they say” and not much more. I say that as someone who weighed the risks as best I could and took the vax, but did not and will not take boosters. And I have little confidence that the vax did me any good as tinnitus screeches in my ears.

I wish I could have more trust on such a vital subject. I wish there was more trust in our society on this. I wish there was more earned trust in society, period. But too many decided to lie and/or cover up on this and on God knows what else in recent years, so trust is destroyed in America today. It’s sad. It is not at all a good situation. But that is what happens when trust is abused and lost.

And that likely will remain sad and destructive no matter how completely Damar Hamlin recovers. God did not warn us about the importance of truth-telling for nothing.

Photo: AP, Jeff Dean

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