What if Everyone Had Enough?


Photo by Jacob Morch on Unsplash

I’m sitting here looking out my window. It’s cold and gray, and the woods look depressingly empty of life. The news is on, but I’m not paying full attention. I’m sad. I’m scared for the next few days in my country. I’m sad about the past four years. And actually the four before that. And going back even further.

I’m remembering the days of Occupy Wall Street, when thousands of people felt so cheated by the economic and governmental systems of the US that they took to the streets to protest. There were huge crowds of angry people blocking banks and businesses, demanding a fair chance. Demanding a share of the profits that Wall Street and its investors were reaping.

They were called leftists. Radicals. Socialists. Anarchists. What motivated them to protest was their belief that no matter how hard they worked, they’d never be able to get to an economically secure place in life.

The past several years we’ve seen more and more anger from people who are called “right wing” and “reactionary”. They’re labeled as racist, white supremacist, fascist, radical. This past week we were all horrified to see that rage erupting into a violent assault on the government and our elected leaders.

What are they so furious about? They feel like they aren’t being treated fairly by the economic and government systems. They feel like their lives are insecure. Like what they are entitled to have is being kept from them. They think they’re being cheated. They feel like no matter how hard they work, they’ll never be able to get to an economically secure place in life.

And it has all got me thinking.

What if everyone had a reliable income? I mean, like what if the minimum wage was actually enough for people to live on and to take care of a family? What if a person could work 40 hours a week and earn enough for food and rent?

And what if everyone could go through life knowing that if they get sick they can go to the doctor? What if parents knew that they would definitely be able to pay for a trip to the emergency room if their son broke his arm? If Americans, like people in nearly every other country on earth, got health insurance guaranteed, I wonder how that would impact the fear of losing a job?

I’m sitting here thinking. What if every single kid was able to dream of college? What if even poor kids in small rural towns knew that as long as they got good grades, they’d be able to afford college? What if that motivating dream was actually out there in front of every child, instead of just the wealthy one?

I know what you’re thinking. I’m a radical. A damn socialist. A leftist.

Whatever.

I just wonder if some of the rage that is tearing us apart would dwindle down in a country with less inequality. I wonder if we’d be less likely to attack each other if we weren’t afraid for ourselves and our families.

Given everything that has just happened here, maybe we should at least try it.

Why Max’s Feet Made Me Cry


My beautiful grandson Max was born in early April, in the scariest part of the pandemic. He was born at our small local hospital, with his parents masked and gowned and the staff in full PPE.

We knew before his birth that Max would come to us with bilateral club feet. While congenital club foot is a very common birth defect, and can be successfully treated, it was still a scary situation for my daughter and her husband. For all of us, really!

But Max was brought into this world by his rockstar of a Momma, who labored in her Covid protectant gear and delivered all 10 lb 3 oz of him naturally.

He was brought home safely, and all of them managed to stay virus free, thank all the gods and goddesses.

Our little guy was put into casts when he was less than a week old. He wore them for a few months, having them changed weekly as he grew. Eventually he was fitted for his “boots and bar” which he wore for 23 hours a day until yesterday. That was when his orthopedist said that he could start to go barefoot for 6 hours a day. Hurray!

Over all this time, growing and gaining control of his body, Max has had his feet rotated outward and held in place to allow the bones and muscles to grow correctly.

He’s done spectacularly well and he’s going to be totally fine when this is all over in a few years.

So this morning after his Dad dropped him off to me for the day, I carefully removed his bar, then the leather strapped “boots”. I took off his socks and put one pudgy foot into each of my palms. I rubbed my thumbs across the skin of his ankles, making happy sounds and smiling at my boy with tears pouring from my eyes.

I’m so grateful. And I’m so profoundly aware of how lucky we are to have been able to give our little guy everything he needed to insure that his birth defect will never slow him down.

My daughter and her husband are both professionals. They have excellent health insurance. They are able to afford the deductibles, the copays, the uncovered parts of the treatment (including the very expensive little boots).

We live in a part of the country with great medical facilities that are within driving distance. Max’s family has a car so they can get him back and forth to the doctor’s so frequently. They have jobs with good benefits, so they can take the time needed to care for him and their older two kids. I live nearby and am able to help every day.

So it’s all going to be fine.

For us.

But as we head at last toward the Presidential election in a week and a half, I can’t help but think of all the parents out there in this country with similarly beautiful children, whom they love just as much as we love Max. I think about the many kids (about 1 in every 1,000) born with club feet like his.

What if their parents don’t have good health insurance? What if they can’t afford the copays, the weekly visits, the boots, the deductibles? I think about how awful it must be, as a parent, to be put in a position where you know what your baby needs to thrive, but to be unable to give it to them.

I picture another grandmother, bathing her grandchild and looking at his feet, still turned sharply in, still deformed at 6 or 7 months old. Maybe the family went through the casting part, but wasn’t able to get the time off to change it every week. Or maybe they had him fitted for his boots and bar, but needed a couple of months to save up the money to pay for them. Maybe they couldn’t afford them at all.

Our Max will most likely have no repercussions from his adventures with club feet. He will probably walk, run, ice skate, bike ride and swim without an issue.

What about those other kids, though? What about them?

The shortsightedness and cruelty of our profit based healthcare system will never cease to astound me. How can we endure a system where babies can’t get the care they need because for some reason in this country we have connected jobs to health insurance?

I’m going to vote for Joe Biden this year because the alternative is too awful to contemplate. But as soon as this election is behind us, I’m going to redouble my efforts to work toward universal healthcare for every single person in this country.

I’ll do it with Max’s healthy, strong feet cupped in my grateful hands.