For most folks who read FDL, the free health care clinic at the Kansas City convention center is a national event highlighting the problems with the health care system. For me, it’s about my neighbors.

I went down to Bartle Hall Thursday afternoon to meet Eve (see some of her coverage here), but also to see for myself what the event was like.

As I walked up to and through the hall, what struck me most of all was the ordinariness of the people waiting to see a doctor or dentist. If you changed the venue from a cavernous convention center to a suburban medical office building, you wouldn’t think twice about most of these folks. The area that was set up as the “waiting room” for pediatric appointments reminded me of the doctor’s office that I take my son to — nervous kids, sick kids, crying kids, sleeping kids . . . just lots and lots of ordinary kids.

It was a slice of America, and not one that many folks in DC seem to be aware of at all — or if they are aware of it, they don’t seem to care about it.

You tell me which of those two is worse.

You can dismiss talking points and political debates. You can set your statistics next to mine and we can argue about them til the cows come home. But standing on the floor of Bartle Hall on Thursday afternoon, all that stood out were the people — flesh and blood people — in need of health care. People who look just like everyone else.

Aaron Barnhart is the television critic for the KC Star, and he got an invitation to tour Bartle Hall with an RN friend of his. He wrote this about the clinic on Thursday:

The Kansas City Free Health Clinic [the local sponsoring clinic] is one of the best in the country, according to Nicole Lamoreaux, director of the National Association of Free Clinics. That’s why they got the nod to organize the two-day clinic. “Even so,” writes [Alan] Bavley in today’s Star, “it has to turn away 200 or more patients every week.” The demand is just too great. Go ahead. Try NOT to politicize that statement.

This is the television critic, not someone on the political beat.

(I also remembered an earlier medical story by Bavley in the Star last October, and wondered if our local “concierge doctor” took some time off from his castle-based medical practice to help out.)

What I saw Thursday were hundreds of folks like the man left by the side of the road in the health care story Jesus told in Luke’s gospel.  (Try NOT to politicize that story, either.) Political leaders have passed these folks by without offering help, as have business leaders, insurance companies, and many, many others with power and clout. It’s not just Blanche Lincoln and Mike Ross who need to hear this story, but lots and lots of folks in DC and in boardrooms around the country. Thankfully, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II represents Kansas City, and he gets it. (Then again, he’s a pastor, so you’d kind of hope he knew this story.)

My eight year old just popped in and saw me writing. “Whatcha doin’?” he asked, hoping to play a game or something.

“I’m writing about the people who were at Bartle Hall for a visit to the doctor,” I told him. He’d seen it on the news earlier, and I showed him some of the pictures online and told him some of the stories, like kids his age who had never been to the doctor or dentist because their families couldn’t afford it.

He looked at me very solemnly and said, “That’s just Not Right.”

I could hear the capital letters in his voice. “No,” I said, “it sure isn’t.”

When I grow up, I want to be as wise as my kid.



I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.