When William and I had been married for just under a year, his appendix ruptured. After spending 25 hours in the ER on a gurney next to a drunk homeless man who urinated all over himself, they finally operated on my very sick husband.
I remember sitting there in that little cube with the curtain between us and our smelly neighbor and thinking, “So this is how they treat people without health insurance…” Now I have no way of really knowing if William sat in excruciating pain for 25 hours because he was uninsured or not, but I sure did wonder.
Every eighteen months for the past six years we’ve had to visit the local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office to update our fingerprints for our adoption. (‘Cause fingerprints expire didn’t ya know? <SARCASM>.)
The USCIS office is located downtown in a huge government building. The kind you have to unload your pockets and show an ID for. On the sixth floor behind fancy glass doors is a nice sized waiting room where I have always been the only (obviously) American needing help.
The men working there have always been kind and helpful, asking questions about our family and making small talk as they roll my ringers over the new technology. But I have witnessed them repeatedly treat everyone else much differently. Harshly. Loudly. As if they are less-than, not worthy of the same respect and dignity I receive each time I’m there.
This has bothered me. On several occasion it’s bothered me so much that I have filled out their little Comment Cards telling them so.
And then I’ve taken the elevator down six floors, walked outside into my dominant culture and gotten on with my day. Another fingerprint update done.
Intentionally moving downward is a strange thing. We’re at the very starting line of this journey, peeling away the layers of comfort. The first layer comes off pretty easy, it’s like that first layer of skin after a bad sunburn, you can just dust it off.
The second car. Private health insurance. (We do still have health insurance. Not repeating the Appendix Experience thank you.) My Influence Network Membership. (Ok, that last one did hurt a little.)
The first layer is the excess. The things you have but you don’t really need. Easy to let go of. You can get along without them just fine.
But then you start removing the next layer. And the peeks into how “they” live become more frequent and the privilege of your own demographic starts to fade away as the You and the They begin, ever so slowly, to intertwine.
Our family has medicaid right now as we are in-between full-time employment and being full-time missionaries. About a month ago I visited the medicaid office to submit some paperwork for one of our kids. The clerk pulled up our family file on her computer screen and asked which child the paperwork was for. I answered and she responded, “Well I was just asking because you have so many kids.” Oh. Right.
When I interviewed my friend Alaina for this post about white women raising black girls, she said a black woman can’t go out in leggings and boots with her hair undone because everyone will assume (READ: treat her as if) she is on welfare.
I finished up my business at the medicaid office and walked outside with the memory of my conversation with Alaina buzzing in my mind. As I stepped through the pot-hole-laden parking lot I thought to myself, THIS. This is what she meant. This is that feeling she feels all. the. time.
I and them slowly becoming intertwined.
We’re fully past the first layer of comforts now. Going deeper one comfort at a time. Some days it’s not easy. Some days I miss my full refrigerator and my coffee shop splurges. I wonder how much can I give up to live this life the Lord has called me to.
But some days it’s thrilling. Like a treasure hunt. What can I give up today to get closer to the mission field? What can I do without to get closer to the prize?
One thing I know for sure, as I peel back the layers of comfort, I realize just how much I was relying on them to, well, make me comfortable. And without them I have a choice. I can find other worldly comforts to take their place, or I can lean further-deeper-harder into my One True Comforter.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:3
Linking up with Chantel.