Stumbling Gracefully and I were talking about “Friday Night Lights.” She said, “I like that show because it’s about the REAL America. We don’t live in the real America.”
Deborah’s comment today really struck me to my core:
I may have said this before, but it fascinates me how much time you spend worrying about how you compare to the rich and famous. I guess just because I don’t worry about that at all. I do worry about how I compare to the people immediately around me, my coworkers and friends, and how the childhood I’m giving J compares to what my parents gave me. Famous people, and the very wealthy, just seem too far away (literally and figuratively) for me to worry about. But I guess where you live, these people are NOT far away. That seems like it must be really hard.
Where I live is odd. It shapes me in ways that I know and ways I forget. To be amidst a lot of privilege day in and day out is my reality. All of my peers, my fellow parents, my longtime friends: they all live in luxury. To be sure, I am at the very bottom of the totem pole of wealth here. While I budget and don’t eat out and go to Safeway and rarely go out for an evening’s entertainment, life is not an economic struggle for us. I don’t see the struggle of others first hand in my personal life. In fact, when I first discovered ALI blogs I was amazed by how many people’s insurance didn’t cover infertility treatments or that most women and men in this country can’t afford even a cycle of IVF. That’s why Faces of ALI has become such an important work for me: it aims to tell the economic side of the story as well as the emotional side of the story. I was listening to an expert speak about Middle East politics today on NPR, an academic, and he said that the ONLY thing that will ever change minds about a subject is by SHARING STORIES. That’s why I really want to publish Faces of ALI. Before I turn 40. I want to change the way the infertile in our country get medical treatment. I want more tax credits, I want insurance to step up to the plate more. Every American deserves the chance to pursue infertility treatment. Not just the wealthy.
Because we all know that the Real America is a place of inequity, of vast differences in income, wealth, geography, belief systems and familial resources. I go visit my parents in Arkansas and drive the country roads riddled with broken-down trailers and rusted out cars and it reminds me of driving through the beautiful backroads of rural Tanzania and the huts and gardens and the rusted out trucks were there, too.
Justine wrote a haunting story about stumbling across an evicted home and finding a pair of tiny ruby red slippers amongst the abandoned possessions. Justine ran back home and took her son to help try to do some good in this crappy situation. The tenant was a single mother with five children, who was often high. Justine gathered up as many non-expired canned goods she could to donate to the public food pantry.
We see the many different elements of this odd, flammable patchwork quilt of our country, divided into squares by moral imperatives, by the gap between the wealthy and the poor and the middle class, by the educational opportunities or not young people have to pursue. By taxes. By healthcare costs.
What can we do to get out of our comparative comfort levels and understandings? Can we share stories? What can we do to help others?