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Yesterday, I had a conversation with a local minister who visits a woman living in a tent in the woods behind a big-box store. She lived there while pregnant. The minister also knows of another woman sheltered in a public toilet. “If someone would have told me that a year ago, I would not have believed them, “ she confessed. “The need is so great.”
We had been discussing her help in recruiting a few more kids for Artsy Fartsy, the arts-exploration program I host monthly for under-served kids.
Her comments stopped me.
Here’s what else stops me:
My 80-something neighbor, racked with liver disease (complications from cholesterol meds) and a host of other issues that, no matter her state or condition, walks the neighborhood. We have always called her the Mayor of Walnut Street because she knows everybody and everything. She still insists on being mobile and active. She is fiercely independent.
A few nights ago, the paramedics made a visit and a neighbor and I went to check. She had tripped while on one of her walks and a couple looking to buy a house in the neighborhood called for help as she, of course, walked home. We patiently waited outside while the medics did their thing. As we did, Fran divulged that Betty, the one who tripped, appeared drunk because her liver creates ammonia, which, in turn, affects her brain and balance. She said there is a pill that would help, but it’s $100 and Betty needs two a day. There’s no way Betty, who formerly worked in the nursing field, can afford that. How ironic is that? A healthcare practitioner, who cared for so many others, can not even take care of herself because the medication far exceeds her meager means.
My dear friend Patia is currently recovering from a stint in the hospital due to a blood-vessel malformation, a chronic condition. She had been hospitalized a year earlier for heart issues, but had to visit a different hospital where she did not still owe money. She is on disability because of her heart. When she worked as a nanny, she had health insurance. When the child she cared for from infancy went to school fulltime, she was no longer needed and away went her health insurance. She got sick when she didn’t have the insurance.
This is another fierce and feisty woman who worked her way out of special education in high school and obtained a bachelor’s degree in early-childhood education. Her whole life she has been mislabeled. She’s another caregiver who can not afford caregiving herself.
It would be very easy to sweep these woman away under the broom of well, there are just some people who fall through the cracks. Again, they are marginalized.
If we only open our eyes to our own neighbors, we may realize there is great need right next door. What kind of a community allows this? What kind of a country allows this? What kind of neighbors allow this?
Both of these women have big hearts and deep faith. They’re not living in a tent or public restroom and yet they struggle with basic necessities.
These are not cases of entitlement, but human decency, concern and compassion.
• What need do I see in my neighbors?
• How do I respond?
• How can I get outside of my bubble to see what others need?
• How can I hold these people, conditions in prayer?
• To what else am I called?
told me that
tried to kill her
she’d had enough
and said that
if there is
a God, then
I don’t want a
said her mother,
a single parent,
had even less
is so great
God is greater