Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Monday, February 17, 2014
I have been seeing this picture make its rounds on the internet at blogs and on Facebook. When I first read it I kind of laughed, had a typical knee jerk reaction like must stuff on the internet is designed to do, but then the story stuck with me. I reflected upon the story and the point it was trying to make. I moved passed my knee jerk reaction and gave it some real thought. Certainly the little girl’s goals are worthwhile. Certainly we want the President and the government to be working to overcome such problems as homelessness and the causes of homelessness such as unemployment, underemployment, addictions, mental and physical disabilities, and other social problems. But there is more to the story than what the government can do, the rest of the story is what I can do. “I” being me, the little girl, the parents, and the homeless man. Personal responsibility must always play a part in any social problem. And for some it ends at personal responsibility and for others it begins with personal responsibility. By that I mean: some say if you were responsible for yourself you would not end up homeless; others say let us help you get on your feet so that you can once again become responsible for yourself and let us teach you how to do that.
There are many reasons someone may end up homeless. I think the implication of the above story is that this homeless person is lazy. And certainly laziness can bring you to a point of homelessness, but there are plenty of lazy trust-fund-babies who never have to worry about being homeless. And some of the hardest working people I know are just one paycheck away from being homeless. I think laziness as a cause for homelessness is not proven.
Many homeless people suffer from mental issues which make personal responsibility impossible. They do not possess the capability to be responsible for themselves in any meaningful way. If they do not have a support system of family or friends then what happens to them? The government can only do so much. And do you really want that homeless man showing up to mow your lawn?
But that is not the only problem facing society today. Modern warfare and medicine are creating an influx of medically dependent people. Because of the great strides in modern medicine many soldiers’ lives can now be saved. Soldiers who would have died of their wounds in previous wars are now coming home. Although they are living they are often injured to the point where they will always be dependent upon the medical professions due to loss of limb, brain injuries and PTSD. Many soldiers also become drug dependent. This is a road to homelessness.
So the question really is how do we equip these people to be self-reliant and take on personal responsibility, if it is even possible. And what do we do with those who will never make it that far?
So all of this was rattling around in my mind and I came up with a sequel to the above story.
A day later the little girl was at the store with her parents. She saw the homeless man sitting out front of the store with a little cardboard sign. She was trying to get up the courage to go tell the man about her friends who would hire him to mow the lawn to help him not be homeless any longer. Just when she thought she could do it she saw an elderly couple shuffle over to the man and start a conversation with him. The couple reached down and helped the man to his feet. The woman sized him up briefly and then moved off down the sidewalk and crossed the street. The elderly man took the homeless man’s arm and escorted him into the store.
The little girl, shopping with her parents, caught a few peeks of the two men in the store as they moved slowly up and down a few aisles filling a small basket with a few items. As the little girl and her parents were leaving the store she saw the woman returning with a bag on one arm. The woman met the two men as they were also leaving the store. Interested in the whole scene the girl scooted away from her parents and went to talk with the older couple.
“Excuse me but are you giving this man a job?” the little girl asked.
The couple smiled and the woman answered. “No he is not ready to work. Yet.”
“But maybe soon.” The older man added.
“Then what are you doing?” Asked the girl innocently.
The couple smiled again. The woman spoke again. “We are giving him some help. Sometimes we all get to a place where we need a little help. I bought him a change of clothes. New, fresh clothes can be invigorating.” She held up the bag showing the girl the clothes from the thrift store down the street.
“And I bought him couple of easy to eat meals. Having a full belly can give you a new perspective on life.”
“Oh,” the girls responded, “but where are you taking him?”
The old man continued. “Well sometimes new clothes and food is not enough to get you back on your feet. He has agreed to come with us to a shelter our church runs. There he can spend a few nights, have a hot shower and maybe find a little peace. And if he is ready they also offer counseling and have connection with other organizations which can help him get off the streets.”
“Being willing to change is the first step though, and he seems willing today.” The woman added.
The little girl thought about it. She could smell the man and he did need a shower, and new clothes, not a job mowing lawns. The man looked about ready to fall over, she would not want him in the car with her. “But why are you doing this?”
The couple smiled again. “Because we are Christians* dear.”
“Oh” The parents, who were listening to the whole conversation, and the little said in unison.
*Instead of Christian you can certainly use the word human. Personal responsibility is a human trait that goes hand in hand with social responsibility. Historically, and for me personally, Christians are supposed to be the example of loving thy neighbor, being the Good Samaritan, and transforming the world for peace.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
We seem to be very dualistic in our thinking. Things are either fiction or non-fiction. Fiction is all that made up stuff that does not relate to any fact in any real way, such as the Hobbit, or Cubism. Non-fiction is all those factual things like science, history or Cubism. Oh wait. I mentioned Cubism twice. Is art a fiction or a non-fiction? I think in our attempt at simplistic, black and white thinking, we are overlooking one other category which is neither fiction nor non-fiction and yet it is both fiction and non-fiction. That is the category of faith.
But what is faith? Faith is meaning.
Some fiction is just pure entertainment as it should be. But hidden in that category of fiction are also those pieces which speak to a deeper level, it brings meaning to life and to the heart and mind. Now you are moving into faith. When that deeper level is reached it does not mean the author is a great genius of psychological insights and depth. What it does mean is that the human experience is such that we share vast amounts of feeling, insights and thoughts. By tapping into that shared experience, depth is reached and faith is kept.
Within the realm of fact, or non-fiction, meaning is gleaned not from the accumulation of data and information, but from understanding. Understanding needs to develop into wisdom through application. Now you are moving into faith. When new discoveries force a paradigm shift within the scientific communities do the old theories then become fictions? Certainly they are invalidated but they have not lost their meaning. That was one way of looking at the data set and from it certain conclusions could be deduced, now a new way is needed to look at the data set which may or may not create new conclusions. Meaning is maintained. Faith is kept.
Some works are born in faith which straddles the line between fiction and non-fiction. Any attempt to force them into the category of non-fiction stripes it of meaning and make it irrelevant. And likewise to push it towards fiction is to remove the wisdom and understanding that it contains leaving it empty of value.
For me, the Bible is a book of faith. To attempt to use it as a guidebook to the past for historical studies removes its meaning and makes it an empty book. To chalk it all up to works of fiction erases the insights and meanings which it brings to being human. For me it is not a work of fiction, nor is it a work of non-fiction. Any facts it contains are incidental to its meaning. Any stories it contains are not just moralisms, but speak to real human meaning. It is a work of faith which should bring meaning to one’s life. To read it any other way is to not understand it.
For me Art is a work of faith. I am creating something real in a real place at a real time. All of that data about me, my artistic career, my place in history, etc. can be compiled and biographized and that is not a bad thing, but it is not my art. Art is not a fiction although it is created and holds a special place in my being, and perhaps only my being. But it is not make believe. It is real but not is a scientific, quantifiable way. It is real in the same way an experience is real. Everyone who rides that roller coaster leaves with a different experience. And yet it is a shared experience but not everyone likes it. Art is a faith thing because it transcends fiction and non-fiction into the realm of meaning, of experience.
Learning to find that place of faith in our dualistic culture is not easy. Religions turn it into theology and legalistic judgments. Politics turns it into an “us vs. them” mentality. Science says “this is the only way it can be.” Faith is meaning and finding that meaning is a personal quest for each person. Some find it in family, some in sports, some in work, some in church, some in… well the list can as varied as the population. The important part is to break the dualistic thinking and realize that faith is not an either/or proposition but a both/and. Faith is that which brings meaning to you regardless if you find it in a movie, a book, a lecture, a community or a political party.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
I hear people say that we, the United States, were a Christian nation but at some point we have moved away from the Christian principles of the founding fathers. I always wonder about the accuracy of that statement.
I am reading through the Bible for a class. Right now we are reading Leviticus in the Old Testament, a very dry read. But one passage in particular caught my attention. Leviticus 19: 33-34.
“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”
Wow, that sounds like something Jesus would say. Made me think “what would the founding fathers say?”
I imagine they would say something like, “Yep because we are all aliens here, now if we can only get those damn natives to accept us…”
I think the founding fathers would agree to this biblical ideal and have a very different understand of immigration issue then the ones we have today. I wonder how many Christians are willing to live by this principle of accepting the alien in love and treating them like a native born. Makes one rethink immigration law and such, at least if you are Christian… like the founding fathers…
Sunday, November 10, 2013
I am a Christian and I support Obamacare, here is why:
When I first heard about Obamacare and the way it was going to “force” everyone to buy insurance. I thought “Hell No! The Government does not have the right to force its citizens to buy anything.” Then I stopped to think about it for a time. The government does not have any rights. Only People hold rights and one of the first rights is the right to one’s health. Governments are only permitted to do what the people allow them to do or are designed to do through their laws with the consent of the people.
My first Insight
Health Insurance and health care are not synonymous although they seem to be moving in that direction. At some time in our history Health Insurance became the gateway to health care. Certainly one can access health care through emergency situations, but that access route is usually extremely expensive. But for true health one needs access to routine doctor’s visits, check ups, medicine and tests on non-emergency bases. Without insurance that is cost prohibitive. The gateway to the right of healthcare is closed to many people because insurance companies deny them coverage due to preexisting conditions or drop their coverage because of chronic problems. That does not seem right.
My second Insight
Health Insurance companies and many health care providers are for-profit companies. That means they make a profit from your health, or sickness. If your health changes in a way that threatens the profit they will make then they will change or drop your coverage. That is just good business sense. It also seems wrong. The gateway can suddenly be closed in your face because of profit margins, especially when you need it most.
My third Insight
If health insurance companies are going to be the gateway to healthcare, then that gateway needs to be open to everyone, it is their right of health. But because of the capitalistic, for-profit nature of health insurance (and healthcare to some extent) then we cannot have a flood a “sick and needy” people draining the coffers of the insurance companies. If the government is going to force the insurance companies to accept everyone and deny no one their right of access to healthcare, then the government need to require everyone to carry health insurance so that the “presently healthy” can off set the cost of the “presently sick.” But remember someday you will be the “sick” and protected from being dropped by your insurance company and somebody else’s “health” will help to pay for your “cost of sickness.”
Of course the other option is for health insurance companies to step away from being the gateway to healthcare. What that would look like or how we would then access healthcare is an open question.
Personal Experience and how it affected my thinking
In the spring of 2007 I had an accident with a power saw and my knee. The emergency knee surgery cost over $10,000 and of course I was uninsured. Why would I be? I was young, healthy and did not have extra money for luxuries like health insurance. I had a few choices to make after the surgery. I could make payments to the hospital and pay the bill or walk away and let the hospital try to come after me financially. I paid the bill (With the help of my lovely wife). Many people decide they cannot afford such unexpected and costly medical bills and walk away, leaving the hospital to pass the cost on to other patients or the state. Walking away only raises the cost for everyone, making it harder for people to access health care.
And of course the next month I found the money to enroll in health insurance.
In the fall of 2011 while on a trip to Wisconsin my three-year-old son needed emergency abdominal surgery. After the surgery and a week in the hospital the bill ran well over $35,000. Thank God we had insurance and the wonderful hospital in Wisconsin was “in network.” The final cost to us was in the thousands instead of tens of thousands. It was an unexpected blow but we were able to handle it.
In the spring of 2012 I became sick. After months of trouble shooting we figured out that my gall bladder had stopped functioning properly. It was dead and needed to be removed. Again, thank God I had insurance.
Not one of these cases did we know about ahead of time and in the midst of it happening if we had tried to get insurance we would have been denied. Thank God that I had the good sense of enrolling in insurance after my first accident or today we would be buried under mountains of medical bills. I am sure that at this point, with our medical history, we are moving away from a “safe bet” in the insurance actuaries to more of a “risk” for the insurance companies to keep us insured.
I noticed that on the bills I received from the hospitals and the insurance claim statements many charges were lowered, dropped or disallowed by the insurance company. That means insurance companies, because of their size are able to broker special deals and fee schedules which the uninsured patient is not. What is the true cost of a gall bladder removal surgery? The amount billed or the amount paid by the insurance company? No one knows, not even the hospital.
I realized that the medical industry is not like the auto mechanic who will give you an estimate that is close to the actual figure and then get approval for any charges that might be way over the estimate. If you have a problem, the hospital may give you ball park figure, but they wont know the full extent of the charges until you are checked out of the hospital. Any estimate they give you holds no meaning. And you have very little recourse to fight back. But insurance companies do and can because they are so massive no little hospital could stand against them.
And that is a good thing and a bad thing. What happens when insurance companies become so large that no one is accountable? What happens to the little guys who are stuck between the hospital and the insurance company? Only some one larger than the insurance companies can stand against the insurance companies to fight for the little guys, and that would be the government, with the consent of the people (the little guys).
Through this I realized that with things the way they are in the health care industry one needs health insurance. But health insurance is not available to everyone. And it should be.
Now I have laid all these thoughts out in a very linear order, but it did not occur that way in my thinking. It was much more jumbled and disjointed and took a while to work through. This is where my Christian faith informed me and helped me to see things I would have otherwise pushed against.
For me, Christianity is expressed through helping your neighbor. (Of course there is much more to Christianity than that simple statement, but my theology is not relevant in this case, only my faith in action.) In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) we learn that we are all neighbors to those who are in need, and those in need are our neighbors. Responding to those in need is our Christian duty. With that outlook on life then desiring those around me, friends, family, neighbors to have access to health care makes perfect sense. But it seems the only access they can have is through health insurance. But some of those people are being denied health insurance and therefore being denied health care. It is not neighborly, nor does it sit well with my Christian sensibilities.
And that is why I support Obamacare. It makes me uneasy to be forced to buy a product or service by any government. But I understand the economics behind it. If the healthy people who may not need health care are not paying in to support those who are sick and are drawing against it, then the whole system will collapse. I feel that since it is a product I am already buying then I am willing to be “forced” to buy it to guarantee my neighbors, my friends and my family will have access to it when they need it. I don’t see it as punishment against the people, but rather a way to regulate the insurance companies on behalf of the little guys, the people who need to have their right to health protected. And although the mechanism of the action makes me uncomfortable, the outcome satisfies my Christian mind and soul.
I know there is much fine print in Obamacare, and I may not support that whole thing lock, stock and barrel but I agree with the intent. Now the outcome may not be predicted and I may need to change my mind. But until we can insure adequate heath care for everyone through some other means I am willing to give this a go.
If you want to read the Obamacare Bill for yourself you can find it here
New York Times Article link from comments
If you want to read the Obamacare Bill for yourself you can find it here
New York Times Article link from comments