Over the past few months, I feel like I’ve been caught in the movie Groundhog Day. In the movie, meteorologist Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) relives February 2 every morning.
I’ve been attending health care reform gatherings and volunteering at back-to-school events, where backpacks are given away and mini health-fair screenings are done free of charge. And that’s where my personal Groundhog Day experience begins.
Unlike the chair throwing, swearing, and increasing anger and mean-spiritedness seen in clips from actual town hall meetings across the country, in my Groundhog Day movie about health care reform, the people I see working these free health care screenings are kind and helpful people of faith. The people I’ve been working with at these events are my friends and their friends. But in my movie that plays over and over, those without health care are being sized up, their situations are being judged, and speculations are being made. Even though the program is free for all, the volunteers have decided certain things about the folks who are taking advantage of the free screenings.
Then the scene in my personal Groundhog Day trails into a conversation about health care reform with otherwise kind-hearted people judging who is worthy of health care. And there is nothing rational or factual going on in the conversation. Finally it gets to the bottom line—what will it cost them?
At first I tried to enter these conversations with facts and figures. Then I approached the scene with why reform is needed in the first place—to provide care for those most vulnerable.
In the real movie Groundhog Day, Phil’s friend Rita suggests that that the only way to move past February 2 is to learn from it and to take advantage of what he learned. I went to weekly chapel recently and heard, of all lessons, Matthew 17:14-21, in which Jesus heals a boy who had seizures and suffered greatly. The disciples, like me and Phil, asked the question, why can’t I make a difference? Why can’t I do that? Jesus simply answers, “Because of your little faith.”
I realized then it’s not about convincing people of faith of facts and figures or even that people are worthy or that it won’t cost them an arm and a leg. None of that is relevant. Today my scene changed because I can see that nothing is impossible for me. Jesus said so.
My question to us as bold women is, why can’t we change the conversations around health care reform?
Valora K Starr is director for discipleship, Women of the ELCA.