Jesus made me give $1 million to COVID vaccine: Dolly Parton

Country music superstar’s faith compels her investment in helping others

Country music superstar Dolly Parton has donated $1 million to a COVID vaccine which looks – and it seems her Christian faith was the driving force behind the generous act.

Yesterday, reports revealed the 9 to 5 and Jolene legend gave the sizeable sum to Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville, USA, way back in April. The university is one of the trial sites for a COVID vaccine developed by Moderna. Early data indicates it is nearly 95 per cent effective.

Parton told BBC: “I’m sure many millions of dollars from many people went into that. But I just felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that will hopefully grow into something great and help to heal this world.”

Overnight, beloved speaker and research professor Brene Brown dropped her latest ‘Unlocking Us’ podcast – featuring a lengthy interview with Parton. In another dose of deft timing, Parton’s memoir also came out this week – Songteller, My Life in Lyrics.

Brown is a long-time fan and gushes about the award-winning, bestselling creative: “Dolly is the first country artist to chart a top 20 Billboard single across seven consecutive decades,” she enthuses.

Brown also notes how Parton has donated about 150 million books worldwide to children, through her Imagination Library program. Parton also has previously given generously to a children’s hospital, wildlife and bushfire causes.

“I grew up thinking that’s the Christian way to be. I mean, we are supposed to love one another.” – Dolly Parton

Without specifically asking Parton about the vaccine donation, Brown’s interview hones in on Parton being a songwriter who has often written about everyday suffering. Brown acknowledges Parton is well-known for being upbeat, but she’s an artist who squarely stares down pain. As a long-term researcher in vulnerability, courage and shame, Brown asks Parton about her view on humanity’s relationship with pain.

“I think people are too scared to look at pain,” Parton says simply. “I think people are too scared to look at people who are suffering because you don’t think you know how to handle it.”

“This whole year has been so insane, so crazy [and] half the people don’t even believe there is a pandemic at all – until it happens to somebody in your family. A lot of people can’t even understand their own suffering, much less try to look and see someone else’s,” she notes.

“That’s when I, as a Christian person growing up the way I did, I try to think about when Christ talks about the people who are suffering – and going into the prisons to see people. You’ve got to.”

As Parton explains later in ‘Unlocking Us’, she grew up in a very “spiritual church.” Her grandfather was a minister and her mother was “very spiritual, very religious.”

“We believed in healing, caring for the sick and going to a sick neighbour houses. We believed in taking something to eat. I grew up thinking that’s the Christian way to be,” she says. “I mean, we are supposed to love one another. You are supposed to love your neighbour as yourself. That’s a big, hard thing to do – but at least you can love them some.”

As Parton told Knoxville News Sentinel in 2011, her closeness to Jesus and God keep her going in what she does.

“I pray a lot. I try to keep my faith strong,” she said. “I try to just depend on that source that is bigger than us. I try to keep locked in to that and energise my batteries with God, praying every day and feeling like Jesus is right here close to me …”

“It’s my job but it’s kind of like my ministry as well.” – Dolly Parton

The in Unlocking Us host also invites Parton to offer practical tips to listeners about confronting pain, rather than avoiding it.

“I don’t know how to teach anyone to deal with pain,” Parton admits. “I just go to pain. I just go to people who are suffering and if I can’t do anything physically, I can write about it or donate something to the cause. But I don’t ignore it. I can’t just turn my back on life and suffering and people.”

“I try to do the best I can in all the ways I can – and still have a business, because I feel like God put me here for a reason. It’s my job but it’s kind of like my ministry as well,” she explains.

“I feel like I was put here to help people. If nothing else than through my words – talking to people or if I put them in a song – I ask God to direct me and lead me and help me to do that.”

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