Caring for the Least of Us

It is a hurtful thing when someone feels that things or money are more important than one as an individual.

A while ago, a friend of mine, pregnant, found herself at her stepmother’s home when she went into labor. Her husband had dropped her off and was at work; my friend’s labor was getting bad rather quickly, and so it was not rocket science, after watching her pain intensify, that there was a need to get her to the hospital.

There was a problem, though. My friend’s husband was not there, and the stepmother had an issue.

“You can’t get in my car,” she said. “You might mess it up.”

The car was a Mercedes. My friend was devastated.

She called another friend who lived nearby, who rushed over and picked her up in time to get to the hospital before her baby was born. When the stepmother came with my friend’s father to see the baby, my friend refused to let her in the room.

“Her car was more important to me,” she told me later, her eyes filling with tears. “Her car was more important than me or this baby.”

It was a hurt that has probably not healed to this day.

In another instance, this one more personal,  I was graduating from college. Education was preached to us our whole lives; it was expected that we would all go to college, all five of us, which we did.

Our mother, however, died before seeing us all achieve that.  That was sad, but we were pretty sure our dad would be just as proud as Mama would have been, because he had preached education as hard as had she. But when it came time for me to graduate from Occidental College in Los Angeles, my father, who lived in Detroit, did not come.

“It’s too expensive,” he said. It’s not that he did not have the money; it’s that seeing me graduate was not a priority for him, not something on which he wanted to spend his money.

So, I graduated with no parent present.

I thought about those two instances today as I listened to the debates going on about health care coverage for all. The battle cry is that it is too expensive; both political parties are balking about the cost, and to be sure, it is high.

But the alternative, the so-called “least of these” not being able to get health care, is not acceptable to me. If it is that people are “pro-life,” then shouldn’t that sentiment carry over to wanting to take care of those who have been born and who are trying to live?

Lawmakers have excellent health care, as do their children. Is the fact that those who “have”  cannot “see” those who “have not” getting in the way of them exercising compassion?

It is so easy to ignore people who are struggling; we isolate ourselves and stay in our comfort zones, and then, as if to justify ignoring those who “have not,” we begin blaming them for their conditions and fall into the not-so-true statement that if one wants something in the United States, he or she can have it.

Tell that to Indians on reservations. Tell that to people who live in Appalachia, or to brown and black people in ghettos who cannot make ends meet in spite of working two to three jobs.

Tell that to parents of children with cancer or other terminal or chronic diseases whose health care benefits have run out, and all they get when they confront the system is a lot of double talk and red tape.

Tell that to young college graduates who cannot get jobs with benefits and who cannot afford to get health care on their own.

Some people give up, but far more keep pushing and reaching for the American dream which simply is not guaranteed to everyone who seeks it

Crunched in the middle of the overall health care plan overhaul is the issue of children’s health care. Yes, Congress passed the CHIP bill earlier, but what is needed now is a solidifying of a health care plan which will insure all children. The Children’s Defense Fund is supporting amendments to the current health care bills being considered that will insure all children, that children will receive all medically necessary services regardless of the program serving them, and that the bureaucratic barriers that keep far too many children uninsured will be done away with.

We’re talking about 9 million children. We’re talking 42 million adults. We’re talking about human beings, all worthy of getting health care.

Someone said to me, “Health care is not a right.” Huh? I don’t understand that. The way the system is set up now, that person is right; health care now is a privilege. But it ought not be that way. It ought to be, especially in this country, that any American citizen, anyone working and paying taxes, gets adequate health care.

Someone else said that’s socialism.

Huh? How is everyone getting health care the definition of socialism?  Though those who are preying on the fears of people are using the “s” word, the health care reform package in no way gets rid of private health insurers. It does make it possible, though, for people to get health care through the government if they cannot afford private health insurance.

The arguments being put forth against health care for all reminds me of the stepmother who didn’t want her Merceded soiled by her pregnant stepdaughter, or my dad, who didn’t want to spend the money to see me graduate from college.

What we invest in the people of America will determine the strength of America. The health of too many Americans is badly compromised by largely preventable disease and illness. Are the “haves” so covetous of their status and things that they really cannot share enough so that the least of these have a fighting chance at a good life?

Gee, I hope not. I know that the fight is all about money. It’s about big business not wanting to lose profits.

But what does it cost a nation to keep its profits and in the process, slam the door of indifference in the face of so many of its citizens?

Because that’s what all this barking about the cost feels like.

And that’s a candid observation.

One thought on “Caring for the Least of Us

  1. Unfortunately humans determine what is important through a lens of the tangible.
    The good thing is that God does not! I am happy that we are not treated by HER the way we treat others!

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