Saturday, July 9, 2011
The Backbone of America
At the grocery store she examines her meager cart before she enters the line. Quietly she picks out one item, places it under her arm … then two more. She turns and walks back into the aisles, her cheap flip flops slapping as she shuffles stoically returning that which she knows she does not have the money to pay.
As I stride impatiently to the druggist counter to pay for some allergy medicine I am pulled up short by an elder couple with matching gray hair. His thick lens, gold frame glasses are dirty but his denim overalls are clean and pressed. She wears a print cotton dress. The colors are faded; the once vivid violets melted to a dingy blue. His hand shakes with palsy as he reaches the bills out to her steadier hand. The cashier matter of factly utters, “That’ll be $92.53, mam.”
She looks like a feeble school marm as she stares blankly at the cashier for maybe the count of three. The old man blanches and growls shakily … “Never mind. I’ll just have to do without it. The insurance is supposed to pay more. Somethin’s wrong. It’s them new changes the gov’ment’s makin’ with Medicaid, I reckon.”
“I’m sorry sir but there is nothing I can do.”
I’m frozen in place as she takes his arm and they slowly walk away somehow more stooped than when I first laid eyes upon them.
As I depart the store to go to my place of business I realize that my heart is heavy and my eyes have filled. Business has been slow for a long time now. Folks are hurting. They are hurting in a way that lives at the core of who we are. Once determined and confident people are reduced to a state of despair that is sadly similar to that gnaw of physical hunger but instead it gnaws at our heart.