BY BOB BEARDEN
America is about caring – or it should be.
The health care website is starting to work but if you listened to Faux News or some of the rightwing pundits you would hardly know that. They seem determined to undermine everything about the Affordable Health Care Act, and when you look at their reasons you have to wonder.
This is an act that is attempting to allow all Americans a chance at getting health care coverage at an affordable price. What’s not to like about that? And explain to me why everyone shouldn’t be able to afford health care? Don’t doctors still take some kind of oath to help the sick and ailing? I think it’s called the Hippocratic Oath. When did that oath change?
Perhaps the oath they take today is, “We only help those who can afford us – all others need not apply.” I don’t understand how they think, I guess. I was taught from a child to help those who were less fortunate than myself whenever I could. I was taught that everyone in this nation has certain inalienable rights. I actually believe there is something in our Constitution about that.
So why has it become if you are rich and can afford it you get the best health care in the world? If you are poor and have little you get the last resort of health care – the emergency room? Which often means you have to be close to death before they will take you.
Where have our moral values gone? Are there moral values that only apply to the rich and famous? If you call yourself a Christian, why wouldn’t you be following the teachings of that Jewish Rabbi from Nazareth who taught that there was nothing greater than coming to the aid of those less fortunate?
I consider myself to be a Christian and yet I wonder often at some of the pronouncements from people who claim Christianity as their religion of choice. People who claim to have a moral conscience and yet who would be fine with letting people who have little or nothing be without affordable health care.
Where once we believed that helping others was a noble and honorable profession and a mission in life we now have people saying that people who are poor must do for themselves or do without. Where once helping others was something that we strived to do 365 days a year – not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas – now not at all.
We have churches and ministers who preach that being poor is something that people aspire to. Really? I say to them they have never been poor! Poor sucks! And I know how much it sucks because I’ve been there, done that!
When you have to depend on the goodness of others for your Christmas or when you spend a few days on the road at eight years old hitchhiking with your mother and 2-year-old brother with only a dime between you. That’s poor, and let me tell you there ain’t no one in their right mind who would want to be in that situation. I know. I was that 8-year-old kid.
We made it through because of the goodness of strangers. My mother called them “Angels on Earth” and they were. But if we had been set afoot in today’s world, I might not be here today to relate that story.
I am here today because there were people who cared about us. They didn’t question whether we there because we wanted to be. Nor did they question us about whether or not we had made bad choices that may have led to us being where we were at the time.
They had enough sense and compassion to know that wasn’t the case. It was through their love, care and compassion that I am here.
They didn’t tell us to get a job. They didn’t admonish us that we lazy or shiftless. They simply came to our aid.
Our story of how we got where we were at that point in time was less important to them that making sure we were safe and had food. Helping us make it through mattered to them more than anything else.
Those were special people, and they were the backbone of our nation. They helped because they could and because they knew it was the right thing to do. They didn’t hold up their righteousness or their wealth or their religion as an example of why they were where they were and we were where we were. Those things never came up. They simply lived the American creed of helping others when they needed it.
That trip took four days and changed my life. It made me see what America was truly all about. It wasn’t about amassing all the wealth on earth at the expense of others. It was about doing the right thing and lending a helping hand to those who needed it.
My mother always reminded us that though we could never repay those “Angels on Earth” for their kindness we could make sure that we passed it on to others. And she spent the rest of her life helping others.
When she became a judge she was re-elected five times because she cared about the people she served and they knew it. Paying it forward in whatever way she could became the hallmark of her life and service to others.
The one thing that always stuck with me about my mother was that she cared. Over the years I have had so many people in that town where she lived and served come up to me and relate a story about how my mother made a difference in their life. That’s what Americans have always done, helped one another.
My mother never judged the plight of others with an eye to punish. She always applied the law with an eye to mercy, justice and fairness. And she did so because she cared about people and she understood how important it was to temper justice with common sense.
A future governor of Texas gave her the nickname The Fair Judge, because he once told her, “Ruth you are the fairest person I have ever known! If I ever get into a situation where I need a fair judge, I hope you will be the one who is assigned to my case, because I know you care about what happens to people and you will always be fair in your deliberations and decisions! No one could ask for more than that!”
That’s what Americans should be about! That’s what America is and always has been about!
– Bob Bearden is a trustee with the Central Oklahoma Labor Federation and a member of Mayflower Congregational Church UCC in Oklahoma City