Today was one of those days that made me feel blessed. Lately, I have been doing a lot of feeling sorry for my unemployed self, but, at the end of the day, I still have so much more than many other people.
For several years, I have volunteered my time as a public relations consultant for my town's free clinic. Sure, I publish their newsletter, write a press release now and then, coordinate an event, but it's a paltry contribution compared to the services provided by the people who work there.
The clinic provides free medical and dental care, as well as medications, to many of the indigent, under-insured and uninsured in our community. They see approximately 1500 patients a month, and the need for their services has escalated over the past year as the economy has plunged.
Instead of the stereotypical indigent person, their new patients are, well, people much like my parents. People who have worked hard their whole lives, scrimped and saved, but have now lost their jobs and almost everything they own and have nowhere to turn. Many have chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, but can no longer afford their medications.
The most remarkable thing about the clinic is they take NO money from the state or federal government. Their funding and support comes 100% from grants, monetary and in-kind donations from local individuals, businesses and churches, and the donated time of approximately 100 local physicians, dentists and other volunteers. It is a true testament to what can happen when a community comes together to help those who are less fortunate.
Today, there was an event on the grounds of the clinic--the American Le Mans Series, Road Atlanta, Lowe's and Michelin donated a children's play area to the clinic as part of a PR effort in relation to the Petit Le Mans race this upcoming weekend. Maybe not the most needed donation, but a nice gift, no doubt, since it would have been way down a wish list of priorities. When you are a not-for-profit, you take your donations where you can get them. Word.
Anyhoodle, as I was standing there, waiting for the Very Important People to make their remarks for the media, I see a man approaching the VIP group. A very, um, grungy looking man. Who really needs the clinic's dental services, shall we say. Then, the VIPs see him too, and everyone, including me, sorta freeze. In a full-on state of judgment and middle-class panic.
"Are y'all somebody?" he says, quickly followed by nervous laughter from the group. Of course, no one wants to admit they think they are somebody. Little Man, however, quickly saves the day by saying, "I just want to shake your hands--what you do here, it's a blessing."
Wow. I bet every one of those VIPs felt like a shit head. I know I did. Here we all are, in our "nice" clothes, chatting each other up about trivial shizz, judging him and, truth be told, probably a little fearful of his intent, and all Little Man wanted to do was thank us. Thank us for helping to make his life better.
There are all kinds of "lessons" in this tale, but, as a wrap-up to my rambly story, I will first note that I haven't said anything here about the current healthcare debate, but I will say this--our country's healthcare system blows. Big time. And, sadly, very few communities have a facility like Good News Clinics.
But, most of all, I realized today that my life ain't so bad. Yeah, not having a job is scary. But, for now, I have health insurance. I have plenty of clothes. I have a kitchen full of food. I can pay my mortgage. I have wonderful friends, a great family and a husband who is my best friend. Yeah. My life ain't so bad. And I am going to keep trying to remember that when I am tempted to feel sorry for myself.