Sunday, November 22, 2009
Tom and I have spent a few days listening to the unabridged audio version of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol". There is a point early in the novel, where Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by some gentleman, receiving donations for charities for the poor. The section goes like this:
'At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, 'it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.'
'Are there no prisons?' asked Scrooge.
'Plenty of prisons,' said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
'And the Union workhouses.' demanded Scrooge. 'Are they till in operation?'
'They are. Still,' returned the gentleman,' I wish I could say they were not.'
'The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?' said Scrooge.
'Both very busy, sir.'
'Oh. I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,' said Scrooge. 'I'm very glad to hear it.'
'Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,' returned the gentleman, 'a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?'
'Nothing!' Scrooge replied.
'You wish to be anonymous?'
'I wish to be left alone,' said Scrooge. 'Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned-they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.'
'Many can't go there; and many would rather die.'
'If they would rather die,' said Scrooge, 'they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.
So what do you ask, does this have to do with anything? Well, you see, I was reading an article about the recent health care bill, the antis, the rhetoric being spout of "death panels", etc. I recently saw a report on the one-day free clinics circuiting American cities and the hard working poor, middle-class who have had to go without, to the extent that their health is declining because of lack of regular care, etc. etc. We have heard horror story, after horror story and have personally, in our own family, witnessed how when health insurance was not available, medicines were too expensive to purchase, that health fails and yet how quickly it can rebound and the quality of one's life changes exponentially with necessary prescription medications and regular check ups. I kept hearing the same line over and over in my head.
"If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.".
We are there. We are in a place, where we are arguing over who we think has the right to live or to die. We have become so greedy, so callous, so insensitive and so selfish that we cannot offer another help, open our pockets, our wallets, our hearts to offer the compassion necessary to give an individual one of the most basic rights of all, health care.
The compassionate gentleman in Dickens Story states, "Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."
What is said in Scrooge's response seems too generous to what we now even wish to offer. He asks if there are prisons and workhouses in operation. Suggesting that those in need should be isolated to institutions and separated, sentenced to a life of dread and sorrow, treated as a criminal and degenerate. That’s a good offer compared to what we now offer. Nothing. No health insurance, medicines too expensive, treatment too expensive, what do we have to offer, but suffering, sorrow, pain and in some cases, even death. But that's okay! The arguments really make me incredibly sad and seem so pathetic and most come down to an insurance company having the right to determine their level of risk to ensure that their bottom line is adequate and their profits sufficient to satisfy their greed.
I do not think we have learned much in the past 200 years.
What we do want to communicate is that while our government is failing in its charge to care for its people, we the people can become more generous, more loving, more helpful, more full of true Christian charity and shower those in need with the help, assistance and support that is needed.
At this festive season, may we all remember The One example of true Charity, and may His image be reflected in our countenance.