At a recent religious service that was a part of the moral revival movement sponsored by Rev. William Barber's "Breach Repairers (http://www.breachrepairers.org) a man told a story about how, as he was being confronted by an angry dog, he worried more about how he couldn't afford to be bitten by a dog than about the potential dog bite itself.
This man worked a minimum wage job. He had no benefits, including no health care. He really couldn't afford to get sick - but being seriously ill, needing advanced medical care or perhaps a hospital stay - was just not an option.
It was not an option.
He told the story of how he was, one evening, walking home from his job when he saw a car door open and someone throw a dog out. He was flabbergasted that anyone would do that, and watched while the confused and frightened dog tried to figure out what was going on. The dog finally made its way to the sidewalk where this gentleman was walking, and was immediately aggressive.
"We danced around each other," he said, describing the bit bull as a handsome dog, but angry and afraid. "I knew not to run, though I wanted to, but it was really scary. The dog was barking and growling and baring its teeth, and I just tried to keep calm."
"But then it hit me," he said. "I didn't want to get bitten by this dog, but I realized I couldn't afford to get bitten by the dog. I didn't have health care. I didn't have any time off. I needed to be at my job every day, just to make ends meet. The more I thought about it, the more worried I got. If I got bitten by this dog, my life would be jacked (sic) up, and there wasn't a thing I'd be able to do about it."
The thought of all he had to lose - not his life, necessarily, but his livelihood, made him more and more nervous. He and the dog continued to dance around each other, neither one wanting to make a move that would be disastrous for them both. "All I could think of was that I couldn't afford to be bitten by this dog."
The tense situation finally died down. The dog settled down and the man stood still, shaking, reaching for his phone to call someone in animal protection to come get the dog. They did come and took the animal away peacefully and without incident, but the man was shaken to his core.
"You don't think about stuff like that on an everyday basis," he said. "You just know you have a job and you've got to go to work. You know you don't have health care but you also know there isn't anything you can do about it, so you just keep going."
The man's story was gripping, the reality of his situation staring us in the face. Stories like this abound in this nation, where people live in poverty although they work sometimes 2-3 jobs. That they cannot afford to get sick is a stark, cruel reality. Their lack of access to health care is just one of the issues Rev. William Barber and his team lift up as they travel the country doing what he calls "moral revivals," saying that America needs a "heart transplant." The lack of access to health care, says Barber, is a moral issue.
This man's story ended well, but there are countless stories that do not. Children die of what would be considered curable diseases; older people die from chronic illnesses or complications of and from these diseases because they cannot afford to get the medical care they need. (http://kff.org/uninsured/fact-sheet/key-facts-about-the-uninsured-population/)
It's troubling that in a country which calls itself moral and Christian that this should be the reality, in spite of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. It's even more troubling that legislators, many of them, are teething at the bit to repeal the ACA and many states are refusing to expand Medicaid so that people can in fact have access to health care.
The story of the man who could not afford to get bitten by the dog is only one of many such tales. That this country can so easily turn its heart and eyes away from those in such dire need is troubling beyond words.