Life Without Warning



So, after eleven days of persistent flu symptoms, I finally surrendered, and went in to see the doctor.  I had figured I could finally shake this bug on my own, now that I had seven days off until my next work shift.  With a little more over the counter stuff, and plenty of rest, I’d be good as new.  But, to satisfy a worried wife (or a fed up wife; I’m not exactly the world’s greatest patient), I agreed to go to the clinic.  After checking in with the receptionist, I took my seat in the waiting area.  In a few more minutes, they would be taking no more patients for the day.

I hadn’t been there long, when a young couple entered the office, with their two small girls.  He was an Hispanic man, perhaps all of twenty, and he carried a very sick looking two-year old.  The mother, Caucasian, who looked even younger than he, was holding the hand of their other daughter.  If the girls weren’t twins, they were less than a year apart.  Both had raw red noses, and watery tired eyes.  They looked exhausted.  The couple stood for a moment, and then the man sat down next to me, and the woman made her way towards the desk.

But, there was no one there.  And no one came.  After awhile, the woman looked back at the man, and mouthed the words, “I don’t know what to do.”  Still, no one came.  The woman looked to the man again, and he motioned for her to bring the girl back, and they all huddled together, and I heard them talking.  The mother looked worried.  Sometimes, they spoke in Spanish, and sometimes in English, but I heard “dinero,” and “doctor,” and “medicamento.”  The father seemed to have a plan, though, and was trying to soothe the mother.  They would go to the drug store, and buy something there, and they would save the cost of the doctor.  They stood up, and rocked their girls for a few moments longer.  I looked up at the counter.  I wanted to shout, “Take these people first!” but there was no one there.  And then they left.

Water filled my eyes, and I swallowed hard.  I wanted to go after them and say, “Please.  I’ll pay for this.”  But, I dared not.  It may have drained all the pride they had to walk into the clinic, and when no one greeted them, their courage faltered.  Nevertheless, it all seemed so very, very wrong.  This isn’t how things should be.  And so I sat, in the comfort of my full and complete insurance coverage, and wept silently over the inequity of what I had just witnessed.

I would have thought that our nation’s new health care act would take care of families like this one.  Perhaps they didn’t know that.  In fact, this state, without the federal government, has covered all children for years.  Perhaps they didn’t know that either.  Perhaps, he was an illegal who feared being caught.  Perhaps they were just parents too soon.  Whatever the reason, they left, and two girls suffered.

The moment was gone.

“Even if I had wanted to pay it forward,” I reasoned to myself, “he might have rejected anything  he perceived as charity.”

But, I won’t know now, will I?  I didn’t offer.  There is, of course, a great deal of difference between foolish pride that sacrifices family, and honest integrity that says, “We’ll make it.” I pray that the young man was of the second sort, assuring his wife, “I am a father, and we will get through this together, my love.  I promise you that.”

But, I find myself left doubly saddened.  One, that there is suffering, and two, that there is hesitation.


So, then, how should we live, all of us?  Recalling a Life Without Warning moment of your own, how did you respond?  How did it turn out?  Did you miss the moment, as I did, and say, “I should have…..”?  Or, were you ready?  Which is worse, suffering, or hesitation? Why?

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