On Christmas Eve, we have finally seen the passage of a bill that has pried open the previously locked down room of recognizing public health care as a human right. It was done without the support of one single vote from the right.
To me, that is not nearly so much a reflection on politics per se but on what we have become as a nation. What was a slow boil of cynicism and the drying up of compassion for nearly thirty years reached a head under the Bush administration. Why there should have been any debate at all over ensuring proper health care for EVERYONE in this country when there has been little to no debate over the blank checks written for two illegal wars is beyond me.
Ahead of his time, Thomas Paine recognized from the beginning of this country that a social safety net was absolutely essential for a humane society.
But what is it that has allowed so many people to turn their back on others, to deny them food when they are hungry, shelter when they are homeless, medical care when they are sick, comfort when they are full of despair?
I have always believed that it is the moral imperative of the strong to protect and provide for the vulnerable in a society, whether they have four legs or two. Each of us is inescapably responsible for the lives around us when they become lives in need. Yet those who are the strongest seem driven with some pathological blindness to perpetuate suffering for no other reason than to amass such enormous wealth that their lifestyles would shame royalty.
Sometimes all it takes to ease the suffering of another is a kind word, companionship, raking the leaves in a yard, a bowl of food for a desperate, hungry animal. When we have strength that another can use, we must share it. When we refuse, we have put a wall between what it is that makes us truly human and the outside world. When we refuse, we can never know the best part of ourselves, or receive the gift of seeing a smile replace tears on the face of another.
This may be the “Christmas season,” but we should strive to maintain the spirit of selfless giving EVERY day of the year. This started out to be a column about some of the most forgotten among us, namely the homeless animals who will spend yet another lonely day in a cage, but there are many people who will also spend a lonely day on the street, hiding in an alley, just as hungry and unhappy as their four footed counterparts. We can learn much from our animal friends, and if we are smart, we have enough decency to let their natural capacity for love and forgiveness humble us with its overwhelming strength. Inside each one of them beats a loving heart, that loves without pretense, and forgives without strings. Yet millions of those loving hearts are stopped deliberately each year, because they don’t find the right people to appreciate them in time.
Strength doesn’t come from money or external trappings of power. It comes from a place we all have, but often seem too afraid to access within us. This next year, I hope more of us will learn to look for it, to understand that we are a community no matter where we come from, what our house looks like, what spiritual beliefs we hold, and most of all, to understand that we can live that way EVERY day, not just one day a year.