Forest Lake Talks

A Message from Ellen

January 19, 2022

January 19, 2022

Dear Friends,

An abscessed tooth, he said.  Joe (not his real name) does not have a car but rides the bus and his bicycle to get to his full-time job at a T-shirt factory on Bluff Road.  He just took this new job after the restaurant, where he had worked for years, kept his working hours irregular and he couldn’t make ends meet.  His new insurance would kick in after 90 days on the job.  He tried to wait, but his tooth was hurting so badly that he called an ambulance because he didn’t think he could make it on his bike to the emergency room.

The Doctors in the emergency room told him that the tooth was abscessed and very infected.  They gave him penicillin and pain killers and told him that he would need to see a dentist to have the tooth extracted. “You need to have this tooth extracted or the infection will not be cured, and that is dangerous” they said.  Joe called me to say that he had been to the free dental clinic in town, but that requires arriving before 7am (bus/bike) and waiting in the line to be seen.  That required taking a day off work, and the clinic could not guarantee that he would get in that day.  The abscess in the top of his mouth had burst and he was having difficulty working, eating, or drinking.  So, he called me for help.

I tried to find a clinic closer to his house, and talked to our partners at Cooperative Ministry.  Health care is difficult to get if one has insurance, and even more difficult when one has no insurance.  Joe was calling me twice a day, working through the pain and reserving the pain meds for nighttime so he could sleep.  Finally, I called a FLPC member and dentist who readily agreed to see him and extract the tooth. Why did it take me so long to call?!  It took more than a week to get from first phone call to relief and treatment, and Joe still needs to have more antibiotics to make sure the infection is gone.

Those who work hourly wage jobs – even those lucky enough to work full-time at hourly wages and to have insurance – find it almost impossible to make ends meet or ever to get ahead.  Rev. Bill Taber, Crisis Assistance Director of Cooperative Ministry, says that just to be able to pay basic rent, utilities and living expenses in Columbia, one needs to make at least $18/hour.  That rarely happens.

As we all struggle with the frustration, unknowns, and dangers of this world, as we see the hate that wells out of the heart of a teenager in Sumter, and as we pray for Jewish worshippers held hostage in Texas, it is a non-negotiable to me that those of us who follow Jesus must have broken and compassionate hearts.  It is easy to feel overwhelmed and to turn away, and all of us do that from time to time.  But more often than not, we must choose love instead of hate and compassion instead of indifference. An abscessed tooth is dangerous for Joe, but the results of not being able to get help when one is in pain is dangerous for our community, our state, and our world.  We must be sources of compassion, healing, generosity, compassion, and workers for justice.

This Sunday, after worship, you are invited to stay in the sanctuary to hear an update on the work of MORE Justice and to meet the MORE Justice staff person, Lizzy Van Harn.  I hope you can stay – or stay tuned in on the livestream to listen.  Find out more about how we can become part of the solution for Joe and others.

Peace and Justice,

Ellen Skidmore

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