Monday, February 28, 2011

Learning Curve

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Matt. 25:40, from a parable of Jesus

I heard something from Joy last night that came as a total surprise, something long awaited, something I've wanted to teach but I didn't know how.

She said, "Sorry."

It wasn't just once either -- it was all of three times! Granted all three were echoes, prompted by adults. And I'm not at all happy about the incidents that prompted the need for apology: a hairpull, throwing a toy in the church nursery, tromping hard on her sister's toes. I'm simply rejoicing, however, that she's able to make that echo, no matter how much she understands or doesn't! It will make peer relations so much easier.

"Sorry" has a steep learning curve. I'm engaged in a process with a steep learning curve as well.

I gave a presentation last night to the adult Sunday-school class for my congregation, on Medicaid in Wisconsin and the so-called "budget-repair" bill. Members of our congregation have been deeply involved in citizen action in the wake of the various threats represented by the bill: to livelihoods, to the right to negotiate collectively, to the University of Wisconsin, to public education, to our economy as a whole, and so many more. People from our congregation have marched, written letters, signed petitions, shared information, and even had a group sleepover at the Capitol building on Thursday night (complete with kids!) I was moved by the enthusiasm at last weekend's retreat, creating a lovely pile of protest signs about the still-little-understood threat to medical assistance and public input that the bill contains.

At the retreat sign-making activity, I found myself asked to explain exactly what I meant when I said "Medicaid" and "medical assistance" and "BadgerCare," and found myself coming up short. Fortunately the press event that next afternoon got me started with a lot of information that I then wanted to share. I did share some of it here on the blog, but Medicaid is a complex program with many, many parts. I realized that I was feeling called upon to share still more, and to ask my congregation for further commitment and action.

So I offered to teach an adult Sunday-school class, and they gave it to me right away.

I wish I could do justice to the insightful questions and comments that came up during those 45 minutes. I was surely pushing the limits of my expertise, and others -- doctors, social workers, MA recipients -- chimed in with a will. One comment right at the end of the session, though, reminded me most poignantly how much I still have to learn.

I am coming from a frame where my family receives medical assistance funds for the purpose of making it possible for my daughter Joy to live at home rather than in an institution. During my LEND fellowship last year I heard a great deal about the history in Wisconsin and beyond of the policy shifts than now enable people with disabilities to move out of institutions into the community or to avoid institutions altogether, generally at significant cost savings. I also heard moving stories at last week's press event from people who rely on Medicaid dollars to live as productive community members, and are scared beyond belief that their support will be taken away and they will be warehoused in nursing homes.

This bias rang so loudly through my presentation that I failed to acknowledge the immense, vital role played by institutional facilities in situations where people's needs are so great and complex that living at home or in the community is not the best, or healthiest, or even survivable choice. And the commenter was deeply concerned about that aspect of my presentation.

Shoot, I knew better! I'd only to think of GrammaJ, now in her last days in a hospice facility. GrampaK could never have taken care of her at home these weeks!

So I needed to get called on it, a painful but necessary public corrective. Indeed, the voices of those who need such a level of care are even less represented than those who are succeeding in the community. Truly "the least of these" when it comes to having a voice in the public debate. Their funding is at risk too.

I listened. I let my thoughts be changed. I acknowledged my shortcoming, and apologized.

There is precious little listening coming from the Governor of Wisconsin and most of the legislators of his party who have (for the most part) been marching in lock step with the bill and its outrages and its timing.

However, word has it that one of the Republican state senators who has previously been in favor of the bill, has now changed his mind and says he will vote against it: Sen. Dale Schultz of District 17. He can be thanked at Only two additional no-votes are needed. Update: the previous paragraph now appears to have been an unconfirmed rumor. Sigh.

There have been calls for Governor Scott Walker to begin listening, and mind-changing, and even perhaps apologizing. This scenario is not likely. But minds and hearts will need to be open to change, to negotiation, to the needs of the vulnerable, in order for the outcome of this budget process to be anything but catastrophic.


So as to end on a lighter note, I'll close this morning with a joke that's making the rounds on Facebook. Peace out!

A unionized public employee, a member of the Tea Party, and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, then looks at the Tea Partier, and says, "Look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie."


BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

I hope you get two more. Two more morally conscious people to help your state.

K- floortime lite mama said...

". I let my thoughts be changed. I acknowledged my shortcoming, and apologized."
I love you even more

JoyMama said...

BWMFA -- thank you. Keep thinking good thoughts for us.

K -- love you too. Wish I were doing a better job of keeping up reading & commenting at your blog -- I've really fallen behind with my autism-mama bloggy friends.