By Justin Coby
Humble Pie is a bitter-tasting dish. No matter how it’s served. We’ve all been forced to strap on the feed bag of that repast at one head-hanging time or another in our lives. It’s time to understand the strength it takes for someone to lift our chins and pick up the fork.
As a thirty-something husband and father, I know all too well the stress that can develop trying to ensure that my family is secure financially, emotionally, and physically. As a health care professional, I have often been witness to the stressors that can materialize at moments when that security is at risk, or destroyed all together.
Unfortunately, as a member of the staff at Health Partners Free Clinic (in Troy), I have too often seen the disheartening relationship cycle between one’s sense of security and their degree of health. More importantly, their health can be directly correlated to their financial options.
If you online search ‘The Effects of Poverty on Health’ it will result in pages and pages of studies, some scholarly and some otherwise. It reveals that those with limited incomes suffer from detrimental consequences to their health. These individuals and families are often short of the resources that many of us are privileged and blessed with. The resulting turmoil that can stem from one illness or just one ‘bad day’, can lead to an unrecoverable loss of their security.
Many of times, these individuals and families are missing out on individual resources, plus communal resources. It’s important that those just a moment away from losing everything, may be able to make their situation less calamitous or disastrous, often times, by asking for help.
Recently, a young pre-med student spent several days with us at the clinic job shadowing one of our nurse practitioners. Though he was eager to learn, he came with ulterior motives. The student expressed some serious trepidation about his ability to make it through medical school.
After some inquiry, what the student and I discovered was that he had created a deserted island in his mind, and he was the sole inhabitant. He was convinced that he was the only student struggling in school. If he would just storm that beach and climb through the jungle, he would find a large compound of other medical students that think school might be too hard as well.
The student hadn’t leveraged his resources.
With a visit to his professors and a request for help from fellow students, this young man would discover that many are struggling to make it and his support system would grow. The situation with the medical student directly mirrors the ample resources that lay within Miami County.
Possibly a simple, but humble solution
I am so far from believing that a simple phone call could address the complex and dire situations that we see every day at Health Partners. However, a return to safety and security can begin with just that exact first step.
This action of seeking help may require a new way of thinking, though. It may involve taking a step back and looking closely at the situation, rather than trudging forward with the same old blinders on.
Humbling, no doubt, but the only ones who should be embarrassed are the people who adapt to this lifestyle instead of looking to honestly change their circumstances. Be thankful and return the help in some form to another one day.
Often we watch our patients struggle with an inability to take a look at this bigger communal picture, because they are so hard pressed to find answers for their situation, for just that day.
Where will I find food, today? Who can give me a ride to that appointment, today? How am I going to find a babysitter in time to get to work, today? And so on.
Personally, I wonder what our family, friends and neighbors are facing, today.
Resources make the difference, and Miami County is blessed to have a large safety-net of charitable and human service organizations that work closely together to create resources for residents in need. A conversation with folks with the local United Way, free clinic, homeless shelter, food pantry, or church, might provide the bridge out of calamity that is so desperately needed.
Just know many, many of us know the taste of Humble Pie. You are not alone.
Justin Coby has been affiliated with Health Partners Free Clinic as a volunteer pharmacist since 2007, and was appointed executive director in 2012.