As part of my quest for information about health care issues for the poor, homeless, and underserved, I read T. R. Reid’s new book, The Healing of America. In it Mr. Reid profiles the health systems of France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Canada with additional information about Switzerland and Taiwan. Mr. Reid describes each in terms of the broken system that we have in the United States and how we have addressed (or failed to address) the first key question as posed to him by Professor William Hsiao, a Harvard economist who has helped design health systems for more than a dozen nations: “ ‘Do people in your country have a right to health care?’” (p. 212)
Over the next several days, I will be posting quotations from the book that I hope offer insight into the issues. Please feel free to comment with your reactions.
About the history of the German health system (pp. 72-73)…
“…it seems that Otto von Bismarck was driven as well by a charitable impulse, perhaps a product of his Lutheran upbringing. When the chancellor first proposed his welfare state to the Reichstag, in 1881, he described it as a means for more fortunate Germans to care for the least of their brethren; public welfare, he said, should be viewed as ‘a program of applied Christianity.’ Defending his medical and unemployment insurance schemes in 1884, Bismarck argued that ‘the greatest burden for the working class is the uncertainty of life. They can never be certain that they will have a job, or that they will have health and the ability to work. We cannot protect a man from all sickness and misfortune. But it is our obligation, as a society, to provide assistance when he encounters these difficulties…A rich society must care for the poor.’ “
Read this…it sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
“What makes a saint?
Extravagance. Excessive love, flagrant mercy, radical affection, exorbitant charity, immoderate faith, intemperate hope, inordinate love.”
–from Barbara Brown Taylor’s article “A Great Cloud of Witnesses” in Weavings III/5, September/October 1988, pages 32-33, 34-35.
As I continue to read Jim Wallis’ Faith Works, I draw your attention to the second section which includes these three chapters:
Do the Work and You’ll Find the Spirit
Recognize the Three Faces of Poverty
Listen to Those Closest to the Problem
The third chapter of this section really affected me. It ended with this:
“It’s difficult to get many different groups working together, but the principle of partnership is this–everybody does their share, and everyone does what they do best. Nobody gets to sit on the sidelines, and everyone brings some answers and some resources. It can work…Always the key is listening to those closest to the problem.” (emphasis mine)
Listening–deeply and purposefully–can be transformative to the speaker, the listener and the situation. Why don’t we engage in this powerful experience more often?
On my reading agenda now is Faith Works: How to Live Your Beliefs and Ignite Positive Social Change by Jim Wallis.
The first three chapters, which he has organized as lessons, have me hooked:
Trust Your Questions
Get out of the House More Often
Use Your Gift
If we started with these three lessons, what might happen?
I am trying to live these…how about you?
(I hope to post more as I progress through the book!)
“Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed. Connection is health. And what our society does its best to disguise from us is how ordinary, how commonly attainable, health is. We lose our health – and create profitable diseases and dependencies – by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving. In gardening, for instance, one works with the body to feed the body. The work, if it is knowledgeable, makes for excellent food. And it makes one hungry. The work thus makes eating both nourishing and joyful, not consumptive, and keeps the eater from getting fat and weak. This is health, wholeness, a source of delight. And such a solution, unlike the typical industrial solution, does not cause problems.”
–Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry, 2003
I had a “health day” yesterday…I planted spinach, pak choy, mesclun, lettuce, and radishes. Cool day to plant cool plants!
There are many types of revolutions. History talks mostly of political revolutions, dramatic events that all too often represent little real change over the long term: The cast of players in power shifts and new political philosophies come into vogue, but when it comes to the daily realities of most people, little changes. But occasionally something differing happens, a collective awakening to new possibilities that changes everything over time–how people see the world, what they value, how society defines progress and organizes itself, and how institutions operate. The Renaissance was such a shift, as was the Industrial Revolution. So, too, is what is starting to happen around the world today.
—The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World, Peter Senge, Brian Smith, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Laur, Sara Schley, 2008
“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.
For most people, to understand something new requires a cognitive antecedent. When members of the Me’en tribe in Ethiopia were shown a coloring book that included an illustration of a local antelope, they didn’t recognize the animal. They would smell the paper, twist it in their hands, feel its texture, listen to its sound, and even taste it gingerly, but they couldn’t discern any animal from its picture alone. When anthropologists transferred the drawing to cloth, a material with which the tribe was familiar, a few of the tribespeople could make out something…Scientific experiments repeatedly show that groups of educated, urbanized people pay no attention to unfamiliar objects directly in front of them if they focus too strongly on the familiar ones. What we already know frames what we see, and what we see frames what we understand.
—Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken, 2007
Always remember that it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood.
–Karl Popper, Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography (1976)
So first I need to take time to look into my own self, to find in myself a willingness to be vulnerable, honest about my own story, its roots and its past, confronting the reality without attempting to escape into fantasy or nostalgia. For when I am attentive to where I am standing, I will also be attentive to where the other is standing, and only then will I be truly prepared to listen to them. There is nothing more important than this. It sounds so easy. Yet it is demanding, and essential, for it is fundamental, foundational. It means listening, the totality of listening, not only with ears but also with eyes.
—-Esther de Waal, To Pause at the Threshold, 2001
Aesthetics studies new ways of seeing and perceiving the world.
–Wikipedia on “aesthetics”
True faith is not assurance, but the readiness to go forward experimentally, without assurance. It is a sensitivity to things not yet known. Quakerism should not claim to be a religion of certainty, but a religion of uncertainty; it is this which gives us special affinity to the world of science. For what we apprehend of truth is limited and partial, and experience may set it all in a new light; if we too easily satisfy our urge for security by claiming that we have found certainty, we shall no longer be sensitive to new experiences of truth. For who seeks that which he believes he had found? Who explores a territory which he claims already to know?
–Charles Carter, 1971, QFP, 26.39
Though spring begins slowly and tentatively, it grows with a tenacity that never fails to touch me. The smallest and most tender shoots insist on having their way, coming up through ground that looked, only a few weeks earlier, as if it would never grow anything again. The crocuses and snowdrops do not bloom for long. But their mere appearance, however brief, is always a harbinger of hope, and from those small beginnings, hope grows at a geometric rate. The days get longer, the winds get warmer, and the world grows green again.
–Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, 2000
The hardest thing about really seeing and really hearing is that then you really have to do something about what you have seen and heard.
–Frederick Buechner, as quoted in In Constant Prayer (page 71) by Robert Benson, 2008
“The contemplative mind is not just something you do, it’s a way of seeing.”
–Fr Richard Rohr, Spiritual Direction Colorado 2009 Spirituality Conference, 16 January 2009, Arvada