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Gary Payton's Faith Walk

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Gary Payton's Faith Walk

Huckleberry picking and health care reform

A question please, what does huckleberry picking in our North Country and the raging debate about health care reform have in common? The answer: perspective.

Standing amidst our favorite huckleberry patch (the location to remain a closely guarded family secret), I’d been reaching in, picking berries, enjoying the morning sun on my back and the beauty of the mountains. After a joyful few minutes of dropping the purple delights into my water bottle-turned-berry container, I’d snatched every edible gem in sight. I paused, then moved sideways a foot, and a whole new selection of huckleberries presented themselves tucked under leaves or behind stems not visible from my first vantage point. God’s creation teaches another valuable lesson—that which you see and believe to be true depends entirely upon perspective.

If I were to believe talk radio, unsolicited emails, biased telephone surveys, and shouting voices at town hall meetings, I might think that the sinister black helicopter types had proposed to take over the entire U.S. medical and insurance system as a step toward the annihilation of American democracy. 

The major goal of “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act,” or HR 3200, is to achieve universal coverage while seeking to cut costs and improve quality. There are no death panels. The government isn’t intent on owning private hospitals. Doctors won’t become government employees. 

For me, as I continue my faith walk, I choose to take a step sideways and view the health care debate from a different perspective. Consider the story of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus’ parable can be summed up in a few words. Walking along a road a man is beaten by robbers and left half-dead. First a priest and then another religious leader see the victim and pass “by on the other side.” Finally, a foreigner (a despised person) sees the man, bandages his wounds, carries him to an inn, and puts him in the care of the innkeeper, stating he will repay all the expenses upon his return. In today’s language, the Samaritan does not ignore the plight of the wounded stranger, a person in desperate need of health care. The Samaritan refuses to pass by on the other side.

Shouldn’t I be concerned that over 45 million Americans have no health care coverage, placing an unsustainable economic burden on society and families alike?

Shouldn’t I be concerned that in 2006 the combined profits of US health insurance companies was $68 billion while more than 15,000 families were forced into bankruptcy because of medical expenses?

Shouldn’t I be concerned that every 51 seconds a baby is born in America to a family with no health insurance, and that the infant mortality rate in our wealthiest nation is second highest in the industrialized world—in part due to mothers’ poor health care?

My perspective as a follower of Jesus compels me to believe that I have a moral imperative to work to assure that everyone has full access to health care. Health coverage that is universally accessible regardless of income, race or ethnicity, geography, age, gender, employment or health status because God’s promise of shalom, health and wholeness extends to all. And health coverage that is equitable because the right to adequate health care comes from our worth as human beings, not from any merit or achievement of some and not others.

If I believe anything less, then I too pass by on the other side of the road.

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Gary Payton Gary Payton is on a Faith Walk that takes him to Russia, Eastern Europe and Sandpoint, Idaho

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