To Each Staff Member of this Facility:
As you pick up that chart today and scan that green Medicaid card, I hope you will remember what I am about to say. I spent yesterday with you. I was there with my mother and father. We didn’t know where we were supposed to go or what we were supposed to do, for we had never needed your services before. We have never before been labeled charity.
I watched yesterday as my dad became a diagnosis, a chart, a case number, a charity case labeled “no sponsor” because he had no health insurance. I saw a weak man stand in line, waiting for five hours to be shuffled through a system of impatient office workers, a burned-out nursing staff and a budget-scarce facility, being robbed of any dignity and pride he may have had left. I was amazed at how impersonal your staff was, huffing and blowing when the patient did not present the correct form, speaking carelessly of other patients’ cases in front of passersby, of lunch breaks that would be spent away from this “poor man’s hell.”
My dad is only a green card, a file number to clutter your desk on appointment day, a patient who will ask for directions twice after they’ve been mechanically given the first time. But, no, that’s not really my dad. That’s only what you see. What you don’t see is a cabinetmaker since the age of 14, a self-employed man who has a wonderful wife, four grown kids (who visit too much), and five grandchildren (with two more on the way) – all of whom think their “pop” is the greatest.
This man is everything a daddy should be – strong and firm, yet tender, rough around the edges, a country boy, yet respected by prominent business owners. He’s my dad, the man who raised me through thick and thin, gave me away as a bride, held my children at their births, stuffed a $20 bill into my hand when times were tough and comforted me when I cried. Now we are told that before long cancer will take this man away from us.
You may say these are the words of a grieving daughter lashing out in helplessness at the prospect of losing a loved one. I would not disagree. Yet I would urge you not to discount what I say. Never lose sight of the people behind your charts. Each chart represents a person – with feelings, a history, a life – whom you have the power to touch for one day by your words and actions. Tomorrow it may be your loved one – your relative or neighbor – who turns into a case number, a green card, a name to be marked off with a yellow marker as done for the day.
I pray that you will reward the next person you greet at your station with a kind word or smile because that person is someone’s dad, husband, wife, mother, son, or daughter – or simply because he or she is a human being, created and loved by God, just as you are.