I was stopped in my tracks the other day while I walked past a nursing home. It was not the nursing home I work at so I did not know the person being wheeled to the ambulance, but I knew the look. The look of absent. The look of dying, not actively, but not living. When I see someone in that position, I feel for them, and I also hope I am never in that type of situation.
But I want to do more than hope, and I want to do more than just ‘feel for them’. The only good option at the moment is called a power of attorney for health care (sometimes known as a “Living Will”) in which a person can name someone to speak for them if they cannot speak for themselves, and allows them to indicate what level of medical intervention they favor. I recommend that everyone fill one out, no matter what age you are since accidents can happen, and keep a copy in your wallet. If anything ever happens to you, God forbid, at least your family will know what you would like. They won’t have to agonize about it, feel guilty wondering if they made the right choice, and it creates fewer opportunities for fighting amongst family members who disagree about what to do. So, don’t wait until illness comes upon you especially because some illnesses can progress so quickly that a person may be unable (due to cognition or being under the influence of major pain medication) to sign legal documents.
I’m terrified that future generations of Americans aren’t going to have adequate health care. I just watched the video of what happened at the recent Health Care Town Hall Meeting in Florida. In case you haven’t seen it…
One of my friends recently moved into the local Catholic Worker and was telling a group of us about the changes he is going through over this move. He was raised as a very conservative Catholic identifying himself as someone who “kissed the bishop’s ring” and not only looked down on us Catholics who question some of the decisions of the hierarchy, but prayed for our souls.
While in college, he went on a immersion trip to Nicaragua where he began to question many of his core beliefs about life, faith and the Catholic Church by learning first hand what a life of oppression and poverty really means. He began studying liberation and feminist theology and went on to earn his M.A. in Theology part-time. Over these past few years, he has developed a great understanding, one that he truly tries to live by, of Catholic Social Teaching. As someone raised in an economically, socially and racially privileged suburb, his transformation and dedication to living in solidarity with the poor is immensely admirable, but our conversation left me wondering what “living in solidarity with the oppressed and most vulnerable” really means.
Over the past few years, he has had a full-time, living-wage job managing an office for a local business. In addition to a living wage salary, he has been offered health benefits, and has nice enough colleagues, but he is currently looking for opportunities and work that better suits his passions.
The only thing that did not sit well with me was that for the past couple of years while living on his own, he has been denying his health insurance benefits and receiving the cash instead (which he donates) to “live in solidarity with the millions of people who do not have health insurance.” This seems like a wonderful act of solidarity and support, does it not? His intentions are pure, and he really believes this is what he is called to do. With genuine sincerity, he told us that he “understands that not everyone can do it.”