Tuesday, July 10, 2007

the waiting room

There’s a secret I have that I’m confessing here. My family and I receive two different government assistances: Medicaid (for both of my children only) and WIC (Women Infant Children – a food assistance program consisting of mostly free milk, eggs, cheese, and cereal).

Go ahead all of you political conservatives and Limbaugh disciples. Rip me in two for getting free stuff from the government and call me lazy or whatever. I can take it.

I never planned or desired to be on assistance of any kind. Call me fiercely independent or idealistically naïve. But I’ve been on my own since I was 18.

However, I did move in with my mother for the summer when I was 19, in between my first two years of college. But after that experience, I vowed to never live with a parent again. And I admit, throughout college I received various financial helps from my parents like rent my junior year, and car insurance, etc. But by age 22, I had become completely weaned off the parental financial tit. So call it what you want: on my own at 18 but not fully independent until 22. Whatever.

And I also admit or confess this: I am highly critical of any grown adult who still lives WITH or OFF their parents to any degree. I don’t know exactly why this bugs me, so maybe it shouldn't. Maybe its because my parents split up when I was 18, three weeks after I moved to college and I never had the option to move “home” because there was no home. Or maybe it’s because people just need to freaking grow up.

And lastly, I admit: in recent years I have asked my parents for financial assistance. Twice. But I repaid (or attempted to repay) in full. That’s because I do not want to give anyone, especially family members (who think I need to move from this secret agent life and get a “real” job) the upper hand over my life. I am a grown man. I don’t need any outside influences dictating what I or my family needs. I don't want to receive anyone's assistance thus becoming their slave to bully around.

All that to say: I never planned on receiving government assistance. Ever. It just kind of evolved.

It started almost three years ago when Agent Wife was pregnant with our first. We paid the doctor in cash monthly and I was saving up for the big balloon payment due at the birth. This method is FAR cheaper than insurance, btw.* Anyway, six weeks before the birth we lost all forms of ministerial pay with no warning. I became “unemployed” right before fatherhood. We received a months salary and that’s all we had.

So during our next doctor visit I practically grabbed the doc by his lab coat and begged for a cheaper alternative, as I was now a desperate man. This is when I learned that doctors are far removed from the actual payment process of their patients. This is when I learned that to most doctors, you are just another yacht payment or country club fee.

Anyway, some lady at the office desk suggested we apply for Medicaid as it sounded like we fit the profile to receive it. So we applied. Not only did we get the rest of our medical/birthing experience covered, but our child was covered for the following year. Plus they suggested we get on the WIC program since the requirements are identical to medicaid's.

And a year later Agent Wife was pregnant again. Mental note: don’t trust the catholic birth control methods. So we got on Medicaid again and renewed Agent Offspring #1’s coverage which had expired.

So recently, I went to the Medicaid office to get an application for AO#2 who turns 1 this month. And I’m trying to remember why I’m still doing this. Oh yeah, we’re poor. We barely make enough money to cover bills and food every month. We have no money for the kid’s routine doctor checkups.

As I walked into the waiting room, I remembered the first time we visited that sterile, undignified, and desperate place. It was the first time that we had been on the other side of the counter. At the old izzy group food pantry, we were always the givers. Now we were the ones asking for help. It was humbling. And I could see exactly what the poor went through. The lack of dignity. The desperate posturing.

All those times at izzy, we tried to erase that “counter” boundary. But in the end, WE were the givers and THEY were the receivers. There was an invisible boundary between us and never the two shall mix.

In some weird way, I feel that being on government assistances is part of my extended secret agent field training for some future mission by the CEO.

I hope so. Because my desperate prayer these days is to have an income where I can get off assistance for good. I think that’s an OK prayer to request. Join me if you will...

* - If we had medical insurance, I’m told the entire birthing experience would have cost the insurance company $7000 and possibly up to $10K. And of course, the average insurance for a family my size is about $500 a month forever. Paying cash for the entire birth experience would have totaled less than $3500.


Leanne said...

I'm trying to think what part of this I don't OWN myself, B.

If you ask me, being on the 'other side' is true ministry and refinement like people rarely see.

I've got tons more to say but I just think it would only be repeating what you wrote word for word.


Tangerinetinselbreeze said...

You have no idea how much I detest our current health "Lack of system" system in this country. I can relate having had to give up my benefits for the sake of an education. Letting my teeth basicall rot unitl I can afford to get dentures or gum my food to death at forty. One of my personal goals in life is to beg God to give me the priviledge of contributing to change- at least in my community. SOOOOoooo many people can't go to the doctor, won't choose medicine over food, and should not have to. Now what makes me want to throw up are people that whine about not being able to go to the doctor yet spend ridiculous amounts of money on cosmetic personal or home furnishings, then call to ask for some free advice from me- the idiot with a huge loan. Pray for me too.

Agent B said...

Part of my dilemma here is that...is it a lack of faith that I continue to fill out the forms to receive the assistance?

I mean, we live fairly dangerously compared to the average "thinking" american. IE: we have no health plan, financial savings, we live day to day, etc.

Should we trust that god will provide for my kids medical needs and 1/3-1/2 of our grocery bill as well?

Or...is medicaid and WIC the way god provides? I don't know.

Amanda said...

I think it is the way God is providing for you and your family. If He didn't want you to be able to receive either of those, then He is more than able to make the paperwork get "lost". And as you said it was very humbling to have to be on the other side of the counter. I've kind of dealt with this in my job also. Only kind of in reverse. My boss has never really known what it is like to be broke so he's not very sympathetic to people calling in that need more time to pay their tickets. I on the other hand know how hard it is to choose between paying a bill and feeding my children. Feeding my children will always win, but that doesn't mean there's no stress in the decision. So I beleive God put me in this positon so that these people can have some compassion in their lives. And maybe God put you in the position of having to apply for these assistance programs so that you can be more relational to the people that you minister to. All of that to just say that I don't think you accepting the medicaid or WIC assitance is at all showing a lack of faith!

Leanne said...

I asked the same questions until I came to realize that I was acting like that man during the flood.


The first rescue worker came by and offered to drive him out of town before the roads closed. The man refused saying, "No, thanks. I'm waiting for God to rescue me.

The roads closed and the water rose. They man climbed to his upper story window and say rescue worker number 2 come by in a boat. When offered a chance to escape, the man replied again, "No, thanks. I'm waiting for God to rescue me."

The waters rose and the man climbed onto his roof. A helicopter came and offered to lower a rope to the man. Still the man said, "No, thanks. I'm waiting for God to save me."

The man eventually drowned, went to Heaven and faced God. He asked God why He didn't save him and God replied, "I did, but you couldn't see me."

That's my take on where you are right now. Amanda nailed it, B. If God chooses not to provide for you and yours this way, it won't happen.

You've been through the drill long enough now to know how many little "snags" can trip things up. When it falls into place be thankful and like Amanda said, remember the experience and realize it is bringing you into the very world God called you to minister to in ways you'd never be able to if you remained "independant".

Tangerinetinselbreeze said...

Every good thing comes from Him. You can pitch it however you want. Provision through these sources meets a need that your family has right now. That is a good thing. These are questions many people wrestle with. Personally, I believe wisdom that comes form above is peaceable. When you have something that God gives you- you praise Him, thank Him, Worship HIm and have peace in the knowledge that He loves you and provides for you. If you do not have peace maybe it is time to seek out his next move for your life. Not at the expense of your children. As the head of your home, you have to provide the covering God has given you. If you pull these resources out of a pride thing- then it is your flesh- if you pull because God has something coming for you then listen to Him. B, I belive you are talented in many areas. I have not heard your music, but I hear your passion when you talk about it. You have a gift to communicate- call it the gift of gab if you want. You are already a published author. It seems that you would be called to write, compose, witness through you talents in a way that also allows you to receive funds for your family. This would not only bless you and yours, but those around you. I pray wisdom for you. I hope this made sense.

RCM- Steve said...

Hi B. Getting free government handouts??? I don't think so. You're paying for your bene's thru taxes. Those provisions are legally yours, no doubt about it, to embrace and employ as you need.

You've entered a realm of faith that few of us dare to take. I'm sure there's times of confusion, mulling things over, wondering if you're having enough faith, etc. But please, do you have to get it all correctly right now? Give yourself some room to grow, some trial-and-error time. That, too, is a part of growth in faith.

As far as I'm concerned, you have lots of faith, and even more compassion. You are a fine man of God and a good brother. So your own faith walk is a bit lonely at times, and sometimes filled with unsureness. But don't give up on what He's called you to do. It has powerful purpose and revelation to it.

God bless, you bro.

Agent B said...

Amanda, Tang, Steve, Leanne:

Thanks for the encouragement and etc.

Still chewin'...

Anne said...

I am a new reader to your blog. I found you through "HarvestBoston"

We also receive government assistance: WIC, Mediacade (which has a better name in IL - All Kids/Family Care, EBT(formerly known as Food stamps, and SSI (my son has a disability).

My husband is in a Ph.D. program and I am a full-time Mom. We found out from friends in the same situation that some students are eligible for benefits. We waited for a year because we were embarrassed but now we can see that God has really provided for us and has used this humbling experience, over the past two years, to help us connect with people that would have never crossed our paths. I know that we can not completely understand what it means to be poor but the past four years of not having an income have taught us to completely depend on God to provide for our needs.

(My husband has a learning disability and is unable to work while going to school -- info for anyone who might be thinking critical thoughts about us receiving aid.)

The other day we were having a garage sell to make money to pay for my husband's dissertation to be edited. (I smiled when I read what you wrote about garage sales.) At the garage sell I met a pregnant teenager who receives WIC. I was able to tell her that I was on WIC and we had an instant connection. She asked me if I knew someone who needed a babysitter and with three small children I was glad to hire her. She came over yesterday for 5 hours. I enjoyed being with her and I was able to feed her good food (bought with my EBT card). I found out that both of her parents are in prison. She is coming back on Monday and I feel like I have made a friend.

My husband is about to graduate and we will no longer need assistance but I am so thankful for all I have learned.

I wonder if you would be eligible for an EBT card? (For those of you aho don't know it looks like a debit card.) I really admire what you and your family are doing. I hope you will write a book.
Kindest Regards,

Agent B said...

Anne - thanks for sharing and for your encouraging words. I need that.

Leanne said...

I like Anne :)