We took our youngest to urgent care over the weekend. It was Super Bowl Sunday. Her fever wouldn’t come down. After hearing her symptoms, the nurse told me we should really get her in, if at all possible. It was barely a second thought for me. I almost didn’t cringe at the thought of potentially meeting our high deductible so early in the year. We have health insurance.
Then, my husband and I both missed work days this week to stay home with her. That wasn’t a second thought at all. That was shuffling meetings, getting some work done while she napped. I have sick time; he has dependent leave.
Then, on what surely must have been the coldest night in Kansas City history, our furnace stopped blowing. That was a call to the service company, finding out they weren’t doing any house calls until the following day, and then a free visit from our neighbor who, fortunately for us, is a HVAC genius. We have social supports.
I get phone calls on a regular basis from people, who, if any of the above things had happened, would send their world into a tailspin. People who are desperately trying to figure out who can help them keep their utilities on. People who have no idea where they’re going to sleep tomorrow night after their time at the emergency shelter is officially up. People who are working hard but still falling behind.
I am keenly aware of how fortunate my family is to have health insurance. We’re not going to have to skip meals or figure out which utility bill can go without being paid because we took Mary to urgent care. We are lucky to have jobs with benefits. Neither of us went without pay or got fired because we chose to take care of a sick baby instead of report to the office. We are thankful to have supports all around us: family, friends, and in this case, a neighbor.
I would like my girls to know a society in which we don’t think of poverty as a character failing or a lack of motivation, but rather, a shortage of money. I would like them to take it for granted that anyone who works can make a living wage. I want them to be bewildered when we try to explain homelessness to them. Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty. We have some more work to do.