The Right Thing to Do

I was happy to see that my home state, North Carolina, has passed a bipartisan solution to expand Medicaid. Southern states have suffered disproportionately to find solutions for the health insurance crisis, leaving many families to choose between healthcare and paying their bills. The national political divide over the federal funding of Medicaid expansion has left us to ignore the financial, economic, and quality of life benefits from this move.

When the leaders of North Carolina stepped back, however, to ask how they might best benefit the people they serve, they saw that many of the challenges that police officers face daily with mental health situations, the crisis in their rural hospitals, and the needs of the working poor to buy food and pay utility bills, the need for change outweighed the partisan political debates that obscure real solutions.

I have been a hospital trustee. I understand better than I used to how complicated the healthcare and insurance systems can be. I also learned that in truth we all are paying for everyone’s health care one way or the other. It can either be organized and intentional or haphazard and full of inequalities and financial burdens. The most important question seems to be left aside. More of our citizens would benefit from expanded access to better care. Healthier people get better faster, are able to work longer and more productively, and babies consigned to poverty have a better chance to get a good start in life. Families might not have to be bankrupted at the end of life by an elderly parent’s care. Infant mortality and poverty are moral issues, not political questions. The politics is only about “how?”

Polls show that most Alabamians are in favor of expanding Medicaid when asked. It would mean receiving enormous amounts of federal funding to help our most vulnerable citizens receive better care.

I appreciate so many good things that Governor Ivey has done. Our legislature, under her leadership, has already expanded Medicaid to cover babies up to a certain age. The template is already there. To solve problems, we do not need political slogans and partisanship. We need to do the right thing.

A close pastor colleague and friend, the late Dr. Philip Wise, was a pastor in Montgomery many decades ago. When a question arose in his church about an issue related to race and the mission of the church, he went to a wise older leader of the congregation to ask his advice. To push forward would undoubtedly create conflict in the congregation. To pull back for the sake of unity would come at the price of doing what the Bible required of them.

This wise leader listened to him and asked, “Pastor, what is the right thing to do?” He said his answer was clear in his heart. “Go forward with the work of reconciliation.” The wise older head, said, “Well, pastor, why don’t we do the right thing?”

I have thought of that story from time to time through the years. It is hard for churches, communities, and states to stand above the divides among us until we ask this question.

I lived in my home state of North Carolina for ten years of my life altogether, longer than anywhere else I have lived until we moved to Alabama in 1993, where I served as a pastor for twenty-eight years. I have retired in Alabama, and it is my home. I love Alabama and its people. It is a great place to live.

I want Alabama to be a place where Infant mortality goes down and our people, especially our children, have access to the care they need.  I don’t have all the answers about the how, but that isn’t really my question. Our governor and legislature are charged with the responsibility of the how. I just have asked myself the question my friend asked his layman years ago, “What is the right thing to do?”

And my answer is, “Why don’t we do the right thing?”

NEW PODCAST “The Waiting Room”

NEW PODCAST In the waiting room, we are all the same…fear stops by in the morning and pops back in when you least expect it…people have truly different ideas of what the phrase, “dress appropriately” means…nothing starts when it is scheduled and why things go on longer than you were told

Photo taken by Gary Furr of mobile that hangs above the emergency room waiting area, UAB Medical Center, Birmingham, Alabama.


NEW PODCAST Cheap Preachers Trip to Israel

LATEST PODCAST. Preachers are like manure. When you spread us out, we can do a lot of good. But when you pile us up all together it can be almost unbearable. On a preachers tour to Israel I found out why.

Click to listen

Tom Dooley

Some years back Vickie and I vacationed near Boone, NC, home of Doc Watson. We stayed in a place with a view of Grandfather Mountain and traipsed around in the Smokies for a week. It was great. We ventured over to Wilkesboro, NC where the events remembered in the old murder ballad “Tom Dooley” happened. There are many versions of the story and many versions of the song, but here is a more traditional one I recorded a few years ago more in the style of Doc.

Read a most interesting piece on the migration of lowland Scottish people to Appalachia via a stay and invitation to leave Ireland for the new world. Fortunately they brought their music with them and a century later, thanks to their geographical isolation, they had preserved it almost without alteration. Because they were from the lowlands of Scotland, they emphasized the fiddle rather than bagpipes, for which we may be grateful. The highland pipes are wonderful, but you can’t listen to a two hour concert of them. They’re like the accordian–better confined to Lawrence Welk reruns or background. (Yes, I know the old definition of perfect pitch–you through the banjo into the dumpster without touching the sides and it lands on an accordion).

At any rate, these fierce, independent mountain people of the South were hard working, resentful of interference and suspicious of outsiders. And occasionally murderous. Wilkesboro was the capital of the moonshine runners who eventually took their souped up cars and started NASCAR. “Family Feud” was not a television show. It was a matter of honor and violence.

Thank goodness the territorial domination of men over women is no longer the same among intelligent people, but the song is a memory of a time when things were a certain way and shame was powerful. You may have heard the Kingston Trio’s version or any of a hundred folkies in the Sixties. I was attracted to that version when I started playing, but I like this one better.

In Wilkesboro they put on an outdoor drama every summer of the story of Tom Dooley and the murder of poor Laurie Foster. It starts with a Civil War re-eneactment, allowing the men and boys to shoot off blanks for way too long with almost no relevance to the story advancement, but it’s great fun. We waited out a downpour to see it, and had a great time. It’s a sad story and justice was severe in those days, but at least there were concessions. It’s worth a see. Take some earplugs.

Maybe it’s true what Elie Wiesel told us–to forget our sins is as great a transgression as to have committed them in the first place. Remembering and grieving are essential to healing.