Two Tuesdays ago, I had an adventure of sorts.
Currently, I am one of the millions of uninsured Americans. I am on my parents' health insurance, but due to their qualifications about students and some miscommunication on my end, my insurance is in limbo. But, as it was only weeks until I go to India, I needed to get my medications and immunizations taken care of.
After consulting with Baylor's travel medicine clinic, I had two choices: either go the clinic at Baylor, hope that my insurance gets reinstated in time to pay me back, and pay $200 upfront for shots, not counting the consultation, or go down to Waco's health department and pay for the shots upfront there, at about half the price. Being a graduate student who was unwilling to spend upwards of $200 on things that would hurt, I elected to go to the Waco health department.
I got lost on the way there, which is pretty easy to do, as those of you who live in Waco can attest. After several wrong turns and making a giant loop around Cameron Park, I finally got to the Health Department building. Probably built in the 70s, the building has very few windows, and the staircase reminds me of the staircases in my old elementary school - you know the kind that has spaces between the steps and if you step wrong, your leg would end up hanging five feet above the ground? Yeah, that kind.
The immunization clinic itself is painted a bright, cheerful blue, with signs plastered everywhere. Now, having lived in Texas for a year, you think I would have gotten used to the amount of Spanish in the area, and to some extent I have. I don't blink at the giant Spanish billboard by the CVS, nor at the warnings at H.E.B. saying in both Spanish and English that it is illegal to consume alcohol on the premises.
But the sheer mass of signs surprised me. Every sign posting, warning, advertisement was in both Spanish and English. The forms all had both languages on them, and the nurse who helped me switch effortlessly between Spanish and English as she talked to me and then to one of the fellow clinic attendees. Coming from South Dakota, we do a lot of talking about diversity, but we really have no idea what it is, and the imbalance shown here is remarkable.
To put it bluntly: The clinic for poor people is also the one that is the most racially diverse. Somehow, we still have a system that allows those of a different color than us to remain oppressed, to remain in the poor sections of town. It's clear simply from the way the clinic operates that they deal with mostly minorities. While I cannot logically extrapolate this one experience out into what all free clinics in America are like, it did occur to me that this same sort of imbalance is what takes place all over the world.
Siddarth Kara, author of Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Day Slavery, writes that a major part of the problem with trafficking around the world is that the laws are created in such a way that minorities - in many cases, women - have no options outside of their relationship to the men in their lives. In Kara's conversations with trafficked women in India and Nepal, he heard the same response over and over again: "I can't go back to my family because I have brought shame upon them." The balance of the family structure and the way society is built is tilted against them.
What is our duty then? How do we tilt the balance back to normal?
That's a question I can't answer, and on the large scale, no one can. The way the world will be changed is not through huge, large scale governmental movements. That's what we've been trying, over and over, attempting to legislate a peaceful change. But it's hard to get people to obey a law of peace and love if they do not have peace and love in their hearts. Our best hope for the future, then, is not trusting in the elected officials, not getting behind Sarah Palin or Barack Obama, or hoping that this law or that will finally solve things. Instead, our hope must be in a community of dedicated, peaceful people committed to changing their world and rescuing those who need rescuing. That is why Jesus did not come to be made King; rather, he came to create a community that could work for good.
My time in the free clinic (which was surprisingly efficient for a government institution-I was in, immunized and out in under an hour) highlighted again for me the way that the world is tilted incorrectly, and we, as people of Christ, can work through loving our neighbor, through giving them identity, through giving of ourselves for their sake, to get things balanced again.
There's a quote in the background of an old Audio Adrenaline song that seems rather appropriate here:
Underdog . . . I wince every time I say the word, especially in connection with Jesus. Yet, as I read the birth stories about Jesus, I cannot help but conclude that, although the world may be tilted toward the rich and the powerful, God, hallelujah, in His mercy, is tilted toward us, the underdogs!