Influenza

Soup

 

I think I have the flu. I’m tired and achy and feverish and nauseous, and all I want to do is crawl in bed and stay here all day, perhaps interrupting a long nap only to take a hot bath (despite my guilt over wasting so much clean water) or to eat soup. I think I’m actually feeling a little better than yesterday (when I had a sore throat, too.)

As you probably know, the flu is usually treated with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medicines to reduce pain, fever, coughing, stuffy nose, etc. I don’t feel like I need to go to the doctor because 1) I already know that they will tell me to go home and rest and 2) that would require not resting, getting out of bed, and changing out of my cozy pajamas. Doctors also ask lots of questions, which would be inconvenient since I just want to lay here in silence.

There is really no upside to being sick. But here are some reflections on how I am still privileged in my sickness:

1. Paid sick days

Okay, I don’t make a lot of money as a Missionary. But my monthly stipend, housing, food stipend, etc. are not reduced if I take a sick day. Below is Global Ministries’ policy on sick days for Global Mission Fellows:

“Sick Days

  • The Fellow will not be expected to work when sick or injured.
  • The Fellow will not be expected to use personal leave time in place of days missed for sickness or injury.”

I think that’s a pretty sweet deal. Thirty-nine percent of Americans working in the private sector do not get paid sick leave. That means workers have to choose between working while sick–and infecting their co-workers, clients, etc.–and taking a pay cut that week. With so many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, it’s understandable that people choose to work while sick. Obama’s Executive Order requiring up to 7 days of paid sick leave for employees covered under federal contracts is a great step forward, but many people will not benefit.

2. Housing

I have housing. I’m writing this while laying in bed, under my comforter, with my lights off and my curtains pulled shut. I have a kitchen where I can make soup and a bathroom where I can take a bath or shower, wash my face, brush my teeth, and relief myself. I could even throw up in relative peace (we do have a large golden retriever puppy who craves constant affection and tends to get in the way).

I’m not sleeping on cardboard boxes on top of concrete. I’m not standing in line at a soup kitchen or food pantry and hoping they will have my favorite soup this time. I’m not wandering around and asking for the key to use a bathroom, even though I’m not a customer.

Side note: When I was in Chicago visiting Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary last weekend, I went to use a bathroom before boarding the blue L train to O’Hare. On the map it was labeled “public restroom,” but when I found it, a sign read “Customers Only.” I was standing in a food court, so I figured no key would be required, but it was locked when I turned the knob. “It must be a single stall,” I thought, since I could hear someone drying her hands inside. I waited a couple of minutes, and as the woman came out, I reached out to hold the door open, so I could enter the bathroom.

I kid you not, this middle-aged woman pushed me out of the way and pulled the door shut. “You have to get a key. Sorry,” she said as she hurried away.

Now this was not someone who worked at one of the restaurants at the food court; this was a customer who felt she was more entitled to pee than I was because she had purchased a $6 sandwich.

I faced a similar experience when I was kicked out of a McDonald’s in the middle of the night while completing my homeless challenge. Both times I felt the urge to pull my pants down, squat, and pee on a wall right in front of them out of principal. (My mother asked me to strike that part because it’s offensive, and she raised me better than that. So here, you go, Mom! Love you!)

Fortunately, I did not fit the stereotypes of homelessness while in Chicago, and I was able to get a key from a restaurant without purchasing anything (although I did have to exchange it for an ID). So, joke’s on you, pretentious stranger, because everybody urinates, and we both probably used the same stall that day.

3. Health insurance

I am covered under my employer’s health insurance, as well as my parents’ health insurance, so I can go almost anywhere and one or both of the insurance companies will cover my medical expenses. While health care coverage was not always available to all, the Affordable Care Act has increased access to health care and has reduced insurance costs for many Americans.

However, as someone who works with immigrants, I am reminded that many people living in the United States still do not have access to health care. One of our nineteen-year-old South Florida Justice For Our Neighbors clients suffers from a painful, septic hip infection. He lives with chronic pain, and without hip replacement surgery, he will become permanently disabled. Because his condition is not an emergency and because he is an adult, we have not been able to find a way for him to get the surgery he needs for little or no cost to him. Since he is undocumented and uneducated (though very intelligent), his only options for work require manual labor, which he is not able to do. Instead he sits at home most days in despair.

 

Even in my sickness, I am better off than so many people, even those living within the United States. That is privilege. Unequal access to resources, care, etc. is a huge injustice.

I’m falling asleep while writing this, so I think I will have to end my reflections for the day and drift off…

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