I’m not what you’d call a “political” person. So it makes me a bit uneasy to post about a “political” topic, but as a writer, when the muse calls… it’s best not to let that one go to voice mail.
I watched with wonder yesterday as my Facebook friends split before my eyes… half to the right, half to the left — as if to make way for the charging bull of Obamacare that was snorting and slobbering as it barreled down the road toward them.
I especially got a giggle from the Tweeters who said they were going to move to Canada in protest. Once they’re there, I hope they’ll write home about what true socialized healthcare looks like.
So, here’s the thing.
I just can’t bring myself to argue with logic and policy that serves the common good. I’m well aware there are many out there who can poke their fingers straight through the gaping holes in my theory. But it’s mine, and I stand by it. Many of you can tell me how bad this will be for businesses, for employers, for your checkbooks. I get that. I really do. I have so many friends and family members who have created their own entrepreneurial empires, who have employed a great many people, who started from little and made it big. And I would never begrudge them those successes.
But I also have friends and family members who have worked just as hard, who might have chosen less lucrative career paths, who might have been unlucky enough to have a sick child or a sick parent or an illness that wiped out every penny they earned.
In fact, I can say we’ve experienced that firsthand. When Gus was born, we had medical insurance. We were both working. We were young, well-educated, we brought in a decent double-income. And Gus was our million dollar NICU baby. There really — at age 29 and 28 — was no way to prepare for that financially. Even with insurance, we were wiped out. Financially, emotionally, physically, in every possible way. And Chris didn’t even have to take any unpaid leave from his employer. Imagine if he had to make the decision to sit with his critically ill child when the doctors said that baby of his might not make it through the night or to go to work because he knew without his income, the family would go under?
Is Obama’s healthcare plan perfect? Of course not. We live in an imperfect world. There is no single way, no right answer, no magic wand. There will be bumps in the road. Big bumps. Large potholes. We’ll choose to drive through them, to feel the pain in our tushes when we’re jarred and thrown around our cars. Or we’ll choose to avoid them as best we can, to warn our friends and neighbors so they won’t need new tires. Eventually, we’ll write letters to the editors and the street departments will work toward repairing those potholes. One by one by one. We’ll work out the kinks. We’ll adjust and adapt and drive on.
But I would never consider not traveling — or not even looking — down this road. I would never argue against helping those less fortunate. Never. Not in any capacity.
What kind of nation are we if we don’t look out for our fellow man? The one thing that has always bothered me about balls-to-the-wall capitalism is that it’s a system built on scarcity. For some to succeed, others must fail. And I’ll go to my grave arguing that this world is about abundance, that there is enough — will always be enough — to go around.
Are there people who will abuse the system? Undoubtedly. Are there people who will be able to take their sick children to a doctor when that option wasn’t available to them before? You betcha. A to the Men.
I would — 100% of the time — error on the side of those good, honest, hard-working people who need support from this great nation, from their friends, from their neighbors. From strangers who might look different on the outside, but have shockingly similar beating hearts underneath.
Malcolm Gladwell talked about the 10,000-hour theory in his book, “Outliers.” The basic premise is that those who have become world-class successes in business, in music, in sports, etc., put in at least 10,000 hours of hard work to get there.
And. (Yes, there’s an “and.”)
And they caught a break somewhere along the way. They were given the resources to be able to achieve their 10,000 hours, they were provided a mentor at a critical juncture, they were granted an opportunity that was not available to all their future competitors, they were lifted by their fellow man.
Even when I might feel beaten down, I hope I always choose to lift.
I have a dear and highly-respected friend who is a master debater. (Read that again slowly. Enunciate every syllable, please.) He enjoys the debate… just for the sake of the debate. He likes to question, to incite a passionate response, to make you think. He once asked, “If given the opportunity, would you cure AIDS in Africa?” Without hesitation, I said I would. He then began to pepper me with questions about how I would employ all those people with jobs that weren’t available, how I would feed them, how I would house them. Wouldn’t it be more civil in some ways, he questioned, to let nature take its course? Wouldn’t it be worse if we saved them and they died from starvation because the resources weren’t available to support them?
I got his point. And I didn’t change my answer.
We’re a nation — and a world — in trouble when we don’t see every other human being as our equal, as our brethren, as our shared responsibility. We get a little backwards when we speak in “what ifs” about those who might take advantage, those who might abuse the system, those who don’t really “deserve” it because they didn’t work for it.
This world is messy, my friends. People are messy. We’re imperfect and flawed, with dirt under our fingernails and secret shames in our hearts. When we begin thinking we’re not the same as every other human being, that perhaps we’re somehow “better,” we’re treading on shaky ground.
There but by the grace of God go I.
I’m by no means a “religious” person, either. But I believe wholeheartedly in the Golden Rule. I have friends and family who are in need of being lifted. I have friends and family capable of lifting. I’ve been blessed enough to be in a position to lift — maybe not in great big financial ways, but in little ones, in spiritual ones, in ones that result in a hug and a shoulder to cry on or a shared laugh.
Oh, sure, I’ve done my fair share of squashing, too. I’m not proud of that darkly human side of me. But it’s there. It’s messy. It’s the part I try every day to keep at bay. I don’t want to be a squasher, a complainer, a “why does he get something for free that I worked my ass off for?” proclaimer. That doesn’t mean I won’t be. Oh, humanity. We’re all so flawed. And so wonderful.
In the big scheme of things, my vote is always with my fellow human beings. My vote is always to honor and respect the other creatures who inhabit this planet with me. I want their babies to get medical care like mine did. Our sweet AsparaGus wouldn’t be alive if we couldn’t have kept him in the hospital, if we couldn’t have paid for his breathing treatments. Why should my child have that opportunity when someone else’s doesn’t? We are not more deserving of our child because we went to school and received advanced degrees and secured jobs with good benefits. Our Gus, our precious gift, is not more deserving of being on this earth than any other child. We are equal.
As a family of six, we are insured, well-educated, gainfully employed, and sometimes it’s still difficult to keep ourselves and our four kids healthy, in braces, off crutches, in stitches, with the medication they need at the times they need it. Financially, it’s tough to stay healthy in America. Ask my tooth. The one that needs two $1,000 crowns. That’s just not in the budget right now. So for a month or so, until we can work that little expense into the books, I’ll chew on the other side. But what about those who can never work that kind of expense into the budget? What about those who make $8.50 an hour cleaning someone else’s toilets? What about them? Do they have to chew on the other side for the rest of their lives?
Human kindness. A respect for the beauty and promise in every other person who has been granted a space on this planet — and plopped down, specifically, within this great nation. That will always be my choice.
Is it perfect? No.
Is it necessary? Absolutely.
Let’s all choose to error on the side of kindness. Let’s take that road and see where it leads us. Two steps forward, one step back. Baby steps. Graceful leaps. Skinned knees. Whatever it takes. As long as we’re moving toward love, respect, and acceptance.
All together now… one, two, three… LIFT!