A week ago, my grandmother Ruby turned 92 years old. Today, I am wondering whether she is still alive. I was planning to visit her tomorrow along with my mother, sister, and daughter – four generations of women at the birthday party! But she fell a few days ago, breaking her neck and cracking her skull. As I write this, she is undergoing surgery.
Until this accident, Ruby lived on her own. Well … not totally on her own. For the past five years, Ruby has had trouble walking due to extensive nerve damage in her legs. So a helper comes in every day for two hours to bathe her, feed her a meal, and do light housekeeping – all courtesy of her government. You see, Ruby lives in Canada, where the elderly are treated with respect and where everyone’s medical needs are met.
As the debate on this issue rages in the United States, it is worthwhile to mention a few facts: (i) the World Health Organization ranks the U.S. system as 37th in overall merit, but 1st in terms of the percent of GDP expended; (ii) 46,000,000 Americans have no health insurance; and (iii) 1 in 4 children in Washington, D.C. – our nation's capitol – live below the poverty line and receive inadequate medical care.
So I ask: How big is your family?
In every other industrialized nation (and even in some third world countries), people are given universal healthcare as a basic human right – the same way we view the right to free speech and the right to practice our religion (1st Amendment), the right to bear arms (2nd Amendment), the right to privacy absent a valid search warrant (4th Amendment), and the right to assemble and protest our government (1st Amendment).
So why do the other modern civilizations on this planet provide healthcare to all?
Is it because they are run by non-democratic governments? No.
Is it because they are richer than we are? No.
Or is it because they feel a greater connectedness to each other? Yes!
In sum, every other modern culture has adopted a broader definition of “family.”
What did the enlightened master Jesus say on this very point?
Here is the relevant section of the New Testament. Not coincidentally, in American Bibles this section is entitled:
“The Judgment of Nations,” Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46.
When the son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels are with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on h is right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed of my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him and say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you?” And the king will say to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison and you did not care for me.” Then they will answer and say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison and not minister to your needs?” He will answer them, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” And these people will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
Postscript: My mom just called from Canada. My grandmother is fine. Thank God.