Person sleeps on bench in Oklahoma City. (Credit: Kool Cats Photography/flickr)
As a writing mentor for people who are homeless, wrestling with addiction or in psych ward, my experience of the health care news last week was pretty skewed. Literally, none of the conversation reflected the reality of those I help learn to write about who they are from their hearts.
There was no love in the health care bill introduced by the Speaker of the House. The only love coming from 45 was love of self and his fairly embarrassing need for love. His empty assurances that there would be terrific coverage for everyone were a plea for all to love him. But the promises left me wondering, “Does his everyone include the street people?”
To regain their footing or their health, these people need solid support systems that are easily available to them at no or very, very low cost. They have chronic and debilitating mental and physical health issues. And on the street, almost any wound can become a serious problem. For them, the idea of being able to buy the health insurance they want at a fair price comes to mind at the end of a long line real concerns – getting identification papers, keeping them from being stolen, eating something today, finding a safe place to sleep.
The sense of priorities during the health care debacle seemed completely out of whack. As one would expect from a political battle, it was the politicians and their agendas that were winning or losing. The House of Representatives could have just as well been talking about international trade for all the impact their wrangling had on lives of the least of us. We could be a society that lives our values by caring for and showing love for our most vulnerable. Instead, we allow our leaders to be focused on the economic bottom line and disregard the moral one.
I have the good fortune to bring my talents and experience to help people learn to process the events of their lives. Poetry Heals workshops are portable and accessible. We can set up just about anywhere, and we provide a safe space where we love people up one side and down the other. Anyone can sit, listen, be listened to, write, read, and share poems. It is deeply satisfying work replete with poignant moments and hysterical laughter. This work keeps my eye on those who struggle mightily to make any kind of life for themselves. I see their gifts and wisdom, the ones our society never gets the benefit of.
As maddening as the current US government is, I don’t throw in the towel or shrug my shoulders in helpless ennui. I can’t. In the sense that I am physically unable to. In the sense that I can’t dunk a basketball. And I ask everyone (including you) to not give up, either. When our leaders fight about laws that don’t benefit the least among us, do something good for the vulnerable. Offset our government’s oversights with a smile to a guy sitting on the sidewalk with a cup, help an older person with their packages, hold the door for the kid on crutches, give food to the local shelter, donate lightly used clothes to the teen shelter, or any other nondramatic act that puts you in touch with those who struggle. Get engaged, learn what folks actually need, and try to deliver some of it.
Community includes everyone, and I do mean every single one.