Friday, September 17, 2010

Entitlement...

So have you seen the letter circulating of FB written by a doctor to Mr. Obama pointing out that the problem with our health care "crisis" lies not in lack of money, insurance, or providers but in a cultural "entitlement" mindset? It's very articulate, respectful, and I think appropriate.

I struggle with this big-time. The longer you're in a health care profession, the more cynical and judgmental you become if you don't keep yourself in check. I'm speaking for myself here too.

I'm not gonna lie: I get very frustrated when I take care of patients who are on some form - or all forms, as it may be - of assistance, but they are able to afford hair extensions, manicures and pedicures, tattoos, cigarettes, and expensive phones with unlimited texting and data plans. I'm just as frustrated when I stand behind someone at the grocery store who has two orders of food: the healthy stuff that their assistance card will pay for, and then the *other* order: all manner of chips, pop, and frozen pizzas. And I think, um, the junk food costs well more than the other stuff you're buying. So if you put it all away, you'd be able to afford the stuff you actually need, AND have money left over.

People balk when I tell them I can't send them home with a week's worth of diapers and formula, and the hospital doesn't provide cribs or carseats, and the mechanical breastpump they've been using isn't theirs to keep...and the receiving blankets are not to be taken home as souvenirs (um, they're not that cute - why do people always want to keep them??). The linens and supplies in their room's closet aren't theirs either (seriously? What is so attractive about puke basins and postage stamp-sized towels?).

I'm perplexed. Matt and I live on a comfortable double-income, but very frequently we have to have the conversation about what other ways can we be more mindful of our spending so we can save a little more here and there. We nearly canceled our cable AND land-line not too long ago just because we were like, 'Do we reeeaaallly need those?' Matt went to Prime Care a few months ago for something and the bill was outrageous just for a few minutes face-to-face with a nurse and a doctor and a tube of hydrocortisone cream. My Prime Care trips for things like urinary tract infections resulted in similar bills. And I'm an employee at the hospital that runs these places!! You'd think there'd be a break!! But no, we paid them and moved on. We just decided to "spring" for call waiting and caller ID on our phone and a limited texting plan on my cell. Like, things add up fast.

I believe in living debt-free (easier said than done, easier said than done), but not to be able to increase our own wealth or standard of living, but to be able to increase our standard of giving. Because even in living debt-free, it's not supposed to be all about me.

And I want to provide for the needy. There are some hard-working, very unfortunate people we encounter every day. They've made every possible cut in their lives, and it's still not enough. They live on next to nothing but are still told they make "too much" to qualify for assistance that would greatly help them. They're desperately looking for a job, and the two or three that they have barely cut it and don't provide benefits.

So my struggle lies in how do I look compassionately on those who are less fortunate without judging the things they already have? And how do I reconcile living in a culture that screams "Because you're worth it..." and "Have it your way..." - for heaven's sakes, if those slogans are just applied to makeup and fast-food, how much more do we apply it to the bigger things, like health care and public assistance? Isn't that really the problem? We deserve a better life...we have a right to ______ (fill in the blank)...everyone needs ____ (yet another blank to fill in). Really? Do we really? Is health care a right? Or is it a privilege? I have my thoughts and opinions, but I don't know if they necessarily reflect the truth. And on one hand I'm a nurse, and of course with that is an inherent desire to come alongside people and help them. And on the other hand, I'm a nurse, and one of my primary responsibilities therein is to equip my patients to function to the best of their ability without needing me...because they won't have me when they go home.

Our country and culture are caught in an ugly, ugly cycle. We think we should be able to live the way that we want to live, and then when the consequences roar up on us, we should be able to have it fixed. We want to keep our vices and bad habits and are more than willing to pay for them, but when those consequences DO roar up, we're indignant at the suggestion to shell out the money for that too. And to have someone suggest that taking care of that bill is our responsibility is pegged as judgmental. But isn't it just...wise???

I have no concrete answer, but I do believe, along with the doctor who wrote the note circulating on FB, that reform of any kind (though he speaks specifically to health care) starts at the individual level. Taking responsibility for that which we ourselves can change. And what we can't change, leaning heavily on the sanctifying grace of God to sever our vices and our sins at the root in our hearts. It begins with a huge cultural change in mindset - we are NOT entitled to everything under the sun, we can't always have what we want...and sometimes we need to pay dearly for the things that we need. I don't like it any more than anyone else. And I want to teach our children that provision comes from the Lord and you manage the resources He's given very wisely...and when things don't go as we would like, we still give glory to Him - because as fallen creatures before a holy and just God, we really deserve a whole lot worse than what we get.

6 comments:

une autre mère said...

Great post! I'm almost finished reading Atlas Shrugged and it's totally about this subject of people feeling entitled to things they haven't earned. If you haven't read it, I highly suggest it. Although the author, Ayn Rand, does not believe in God. And that is where I struggle - trying to be generous and Christ-like while still feeling that people need to work for a living and not live off the government (or taxpayers) - which I believe is also Biblical.

Chad and I try to live "tightly" too. We don't have cable or a cell phone plan (I have a prepaid one) and Chad doesn't have a cell at all. We bought iPod Touches (for a great deal) so we could keep in touch with our youth group with free unlimited texting. So, needless to say, I was a little irritated a few months ago when someone I know (with absolutely no tact) was not-so-subtly hinting to me that she needed some cash to pay her rent. And this same person has digital cable and a smart phone. Huh.

Sorry this was so long. I guess you hit a nerve. :)

Cara said...

Somewhere "the pursuit of happiness" became "guarantee of happiness or else." The Bible doesn't even preach happiness either! But godliness with contentment is great gain! 1 Timothy 6:6

Jan said...

Amen, my friend. Very well written with great insight. Thanks for sharing it. ((hugs)) ~jan~

Rachael Neal said...

MUCH agreed! I was working in my parents' cell phone store this week and a woman came in to pay her monstrous cell phone bill. Her son had racked up $1500 by calling his girlfriend overseas. But, it wasn't his fault (according to his mother). "He was so heartsick for her that I let it go." And now she's upset with the cell phone company for making her pay the bill. Huh? I think it stems way beyond entitlement. People need to take responsibility for themselves.

Erin said...

Loved this. I have to admit however that I totally took one of those receiving blankets from the hospital and it's a treasured memento . . . I hope I paid for it somewhere in the $32,000 bill that came my way? :)

Erin said...

Also, you know I'm on a mission to live without excesses right now in working toward the harvest. We have been landline free for several years and we are cable free now too. I went into a cell phone place last night to try find a simpler phone and basic cell phone package and the sales lady looked at me like I had lost my head. Edward always says that the hourly workers in the factory where he is an engineer have the fanciest phones and always laugh at his blackberry, which apparently, is totally behind the times.