Thursday, October 04, 2007

To the Leader of the Free World

Dear Mr. President,

I am merely a lowly chaplain in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My work is small, it happens on the sly in the manor homes of the country club set, in the seedy nursing facilities trying to scrape enough medicaid dollars together to add another coat of institutional green to the walls, in the retiremement villas of the well-insured, and in the small government subsidized apartment of the veteran who still suffers from PTSD and finds that his Medicaid and Medicare checks aren't quite cutting it. My work happens when I enter the abode of the one dying, and listen to their life story, and hold my own hand in theirs, and offer their cracked lips a sip of water if they ask, and maybe share some stories of living water if their in the mood, or have the inclination. And if they don't, that's okay too. My work is small. It happens quietly.

I wonder, perhaps, if with all the big things you are called to do, running around with heads of state, jetting off to foreign countries at a moments notice, enjoying your status not only as head of the free world but as privileged son of a very wealthy family, if you might not forget about those of us who do the small things.

When was the last time you sat with someone who was taking their last breath and offered them comfort? When was the last time you tried to pull together enough money from different funds for a dying person so that they might have a CD player in their room to enjoy music? When was the last time you did a financial aid assessment for a disabled veteran and realized how little their funds stretch out over a month? When did you have to tell a mother whose ten day old infant was dying that there was nothing that could be done to keep her husband from being shipped off to fight your war in Iraq by the end of the month, leaving her with a dying baby and keeping her husband from having what little precious time he could have to cradle his son in his arms?

It seems, perhaps, that your "large view," your big picture thinking clouds your compassion. It probably would mine. I would like to believe it is simply an oversight, and not ignorance. But, Mr. President, I think you're missing the little things. You're missing a lot of those little things. And your presidency is the worse because of it.

So, let's talk about this SCHIP thing, shall we? Or, specifically, let's talk about your veto of it. I know that the 6.6 million children in the world who are helped by this insurance, indeed saved by it at times, may just seem like one big number that you can't fathom. I can't. I know that by adding 4 million chldren to the program over five years still seems like a whole lot when we don't have that many fingers to use for counting.

But, Mr. President, you can't afford to hide behind the big numbers now, because the lives of children are at stake. Children who have ten little fingers, and ten little toes upon which we play "This Little Piggy." Children who we stay awake at night with while the shower runs steaming the mirrors hoping against hope that their croup, and their tears, will subside. Children with dirty red-faced popsicle smiles who need immunizations, and children with band-aid covered knees who need to be seen if they fall off their scooters. These are the little people, the faces behind those big numbers, the small view.

Perhaps your strategy is all wrong and it's time to think small now, because your previous ways haven't been working for you...and, well, truth be told they aren't exactly in keeping with your Christian tradition are they? You know, the feed the sick, clothe the naked, turn the other cheek stuff?

I know you've already vetoed the SCHIP proposal and that hearing the words from a lowly chaplain like me doesn't help much. But, you know, it's never too late to change your mind. And I know I couldn't sleep very well at night knowing I didn't at least try.

Contemplative Chaplain

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, Christen. So well done.

I'm very proud of you.