That Tug

Have you ever had an experience which causes you to reflect on life? I had one this week.  I was delivering fliers about our Parkinson’s group to a local medical office. Someone had suggested that I also drop some off at ‘His Hands’, a local free medical clinic. I had never been there, so I looked up the website on my phone and hit GPS directions.

The clinic was only a block or so away from where I was. I pulled in front of the small building and walked in. The office had a slight odd odor of dirty clothes. There was one patient sitting in the small waiting room.  I looked at the older man in his well worn clothes and immediately thought he might be homeless. I smiled at him and he smiled back with an almost toothless grin. Something tugged at my heart.

The receptionist was talking on the phone, but she smiled to acknowledge me. As I stood waiting, I heard her side of the conversation. I heard her verify with the person on the other end that they had health insurance but had a very high deductible. Yes, the clinic could help. I looked around at the small, simple, but clean office. Something tugged at my heart again.

A pleasant woman came through a door behind the front desk and asked if I needed help. I explained who I was and about the free programs for people with PD in the area as I handed her the fliers. She thanked me, said she would put some out in the waiting room and give some to the doctors to hand out. I thanked her and walked out to my car.

As I got back in the car, I looked again at the small building. It was a simple white building, nothing like the previous medical facility that I just came from with its large glass windows, spacious offices, and beautiful art on the walls.  I felt that same tug at my heart. This time tears came to my eyes. As I drove away, it hit me. “If not for the grace of God”.

Whatever your spiritual beliefs are or aren’t, we are one tragedy or bad decision away from needing services such as those provided by His Hands. I could be the homeless person in the waiting room if I had become addicted to drugs or alcohol, or had a mental illness that controlled my decisions. I could be there after being diagnosed with a disease or a became the victim of an accident that left me with medical bills that bankrupted me. I could be there if my child had been born with a condition that required expensive medical treatments.

We don’t like to think about the “what ifs”, but perhaps sometimes we should. It might give us a little more compassion towards those who are struggling. Maybe we wouldn’t see the man or woman on the street corner as a “bum”, but as someone who fell on hard times due to a drug or alcohol problem, or a mental illness. Maybe we wouldn’t stereotype the single mom who relies on Medicaid and Food Stamps to care for her family. Maybe we could empathize with the immigrant family who are just trying to find a better life for their children than what they fled. Maybe we could imagine what it would be like to be a veteran coming home to a different world that he or she is having trouble adjusting to.

Maybe, just maybe, we could all feel that tug in our hearts. That tug is called compassion. We all need to feel it.

Republican Congressmen Steve Scalise Shot by Left-Wing Activist.

Source: Republican Congressmen Steve Scalise Shot by Left-Wing Activist.

Very well written blog. Please understand, it’s not because this guy hated Donald Trump, or Republicans, or because he was a Bernie Sanders supporter. This guy had a history of domestic abuse and very likely mental illness. I don’t agree with Trump, I’m angry at what the Iowa GOP did this legislative session, but I would never try to harm someone, much less shoot who I disagree with!

Uncontrolled anger and mental illness are the spark that sets the fire to an action like this. If you look at the history of the majority of violent people, whether a mass shooter, a gang member, or even a terrorist, you will find a history of violence on some level. That’s a proven fact. “Normal functioning” people don’t pick up a gun and shoot someone, they don’t stab someone, they don’t run them over with a vehicle, and they don’t strap a bomb to their bodies and blow up innocents. Uncontrolled anger and mental illness start this. Hate, idealism, racism, sexism, xenophobia feed it.

The fact that mental illness is still stigmatized in this country is an issue that must continue to be addressed. Many insurance companies don’t pay for mental heealthcare. Often when they do, individuals are left with a large out of pocket expenses. Sadly, our government made it legal this year for the diagnosed mentally ill to own a gun. Therefore, it is easier to buy a gun than it is to get mental healthcare. What’s wrong with that picture?

We live in a messed up world. Many people are angry politically. We’re worried about not having affordable healthcare for ourselves or loved ones, especially if they have a condition that requires medical care. We are afraid for our country. We’re concerned about rights being taken away. We’re concerned about our environment and ending up with water like that in Flint, Michigan. We’re angry that the wealth gap continues to grow. We have lost what the truth is and maybe can’t talk to our friends or even family without hostility and anger. It’s never a reason to be violent. We can speak up and speak out. We contact our lawmakers. We get out and vote in every election. We participate in the process instead of sitting at home and feeling helpless. Helplessness breeds hopelessness which breeds anger. Add in mental illness and a tool that can kill, and you have a disaster waiting to happen.