Thursday morning’s news was filled with the tragic story of a young mom who slid into a retaining pond with five young children in the car. The story has grown worse over the last two days, as two of the children submerged in that icy water have died, one remains in very, very critical condition, while two are making signs of progress. I can only imagine the devastation this blended family is feeling. Hoping, waiting, praying for a child to recover from a critical illness changes the landscape of a heart. Grief over the loss of a child, rips the soul in two.
I used to drive past that retaining pond on a daily basis, and many times wondered why it was there. I often thought of the “what if’s” should a car slid into it on an icy morning or land there because of an accident. I had no idea it was so deep or so deadly. The highway department has good reasons and names it purpose as protecting our waters. But, one wonders if there couldn’t have been more protection to keep a car from going into the water.
I think of children submerged in icy waters, a young family trying hard to make life better for themselves. A new job that led a mom to drop her boyfriend off at work early in the morning, on the way to daycare, school and her new job. A family trying so hard in a society where the poor too often carry the weight of their poverty. All the while leading quietly heroic lives.
I would never have paid attention to the woman next to me yesterday, except for the package which fell when she was pulling another one out. She was having trouble putting the package back into its rack, so I held the clip down while she slipped it into place. She made a point of telling me how nice it was for me to help her, then she headed off to meet her friend, saying, “Wasn’t that nice of her?” as if I had done something noteworthy. I thought about that simple act, which caused a gracious response in her. I think I would like to know this woman who finds a simple gesture worthy of telling another about. She is a person who looks at life gratefully, seeing kindness in the most ordinary of circumstances, living life with a gracious spirit. I wish I had taken another moment with her, while standing in the checkout lane.
When my children were young we faced some difficult medical challenges. I don’t know what we would have done when my youngest and most expensive child was born, if we had not had excellent insurance. Because how do you pay off bills that are many times over your annual income?
My daughter works with a population that is just learning their health care coverage is being cut off. She tells me it is the people who cry that get to her the most. Living in a state that recently reduced eligibility of their state run health care program from 133 percent of poverty down to 100 percent, while also rejecting the Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Health Care has left many uninsured. What could have been an easy transition for these families of the working poor, has become a nightmare instead while they find themselves in the middle of our public debate about health care. Worse still is the gap created when a portion of the Affordable Health Care law was struck down by the Supreme Court. No longer able to qualify for one type of health care coverage, they are unable to even apply for the health exchanges which were written with the expectation they would be covered by Medicaid.
Today people are trapped in that gap in half of our states. Fixing the disparity across our nation ought to be a priority we could all agree on. Basic human kindness and human decency, to say nothing of a God who insists we are to care for those who live on the underside of wealth, demands a compassionate response. I think the prophet Amos would have a word for us even as he cautioned his nation to, “ Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) I wonder when we will have courage enough to let go of our political talking points and being to work together for justice. I pray that it comes soon.