I grew up enjoying an affluent lifestyle. My dad was the owner of a popular Chicago nightclub. The house where I lived, along with two siblings and both my parents, boasted 10 large rooms with a finished basement. Summers, we vacationed at our lake house in Delavan, Wisconsin. During the school year, my parents sent us to an elite private school.
When I broke my collar bone (twice) I was rushed to ER in a cab where the situation was immediately tended to. When my sister came down with measles, the doctor came to our home to treat the condition.
Food, shelter, clothing, and medical needs were more than amply met. My world was safe. Needs and wants and greeds were at my fingertips.
Many years later, I was employed with a school district and I had insurance. When my children came along, they were included on my medical care. Though we weren't wealthy (on a teacher's salary) we didn't lack for much.
And here I am, many years later, on the brink of retirement, caring for my adult son who is mentally ill and has been unable to work for 3 years. Thankfully, he is not on the street as so many are. Matthew lives in my home.
For three years we have applied for social security for him. I say 'we' because Matthew is unable to do this by himself. Finally we secured a lawyer to fight that ongoing situation.
Meanwhile, Matthew is with a wonderful Denton, Texas organization MHMR. I will forever be grateful and indebted to them for literally saving my son's life. Matthew is on a cocktail of ever changing meds, has a team of case workers, a full-time psychiatrist, and a nurse who comes to the house to treat him and check on him each week.
And then it happened. His anxiety rose to dangerous levels and his blood pressure went through the roof. He ended up in the ER twice. And then went back to the hospital two more times for sciatica, and experienced a very unsympathetic doctor who only handed him a list of exercises to do.
"Mom, where do I go if I have a medical need?" he asked. "I can't keep going to the ER."
Not only am I now in the world of fighting for disability for my ill son, but he also is developing physical problems. Where to go? No insurance. I haven't money to pay out of pocket. I only knew a world of earning a paycheck for working, and paying a deductible for doctor visits.
I woke up. I had to find new ways to help my son meet his needs. Surely, my son was far from the only one with these problems. There had to be an underground network. How could I tap into that? Where should I go? Who to ask?
There is a world of people who are homeless; no shelter, a bag of questionable clothes, churches that provide lunch, but where is there help for medical needs? I had no idea.
Many suggested I ask for credit and then pay it off monthly bit by bit. When one is already financially stressed, its not really a possibility.
Last night Matthew and I went to Walgreen's to find something to help relieve tooth pain. Before we left, a friend suggested I ask the pharmacist about any charities (charities can be hard to find and they must be flooded with requests). The pharmacist suggested First Baptist Church of Denton, where I spoke last fall about one of my books. I felt right at home calling.
The church sponsors First Refuge. It's run by dentists who volunteer their time on certain days. The indigent must qualify. According to their guidelines, Matthew should qualify (fingers crossed, prayers said).
In these past months, I learned that there is a secret world of the indigent. The people we sometimes do not notice, or care to notice, living on the fringes of society. Hungry, dirty, needing medical and perhaps psychiatric assistance.
I think back to my happy, lazy days of summer. How easy life was for me. How blessed I was.
Not everyone has had it easy. It makes me grateful for what I do have. But I need just a bit more for my son Matthew because he needs it....
just as millions of others need it; children, men, women, teens, vets. Please lets not forget.
Let's stop arguing about who is using the bathroom, what face is on our dollar, and tackle real life problems. Make a difference.. If we all pitch in, what a beautiful difference we can make. We are God's hands on earth. Let's use our hands and open our hearts.