On two nickels

March 29, 2015 by

He never went to the doctor
For he could not pay
Getting sick for
Poor people was different
You see
He worked and
Had pneumonia but
Still went to work
Cause he could not
Afford to miss work
He got sick sometimes
But waited for it
To get over with
And sometimes it took
A little while
And people thought he was
But he had been to the
Emergency rooms
And knew how long hours
Were when you were not
Sick enough to be next
When it was only
An emergency to you
He knew what it was like
To lay in a bed
In a hallway
Waiting for a room
To be told what it
Might be
And given a prescription
He couldn’t pay for
Or to follow up with
A doctor he didn’t have
He knew the “you must
Be lazy look” when he
Told them he had
No insurance and
The shake of the head
When they saw
How much money he
Already owed
He never really
Understood his guilt
Or crime
Or why what he prayed for
Was something more than
He deserved
He prayed sometimes
When he was alone
And he was sure
No one was around
That he never got
“Really sick”
A sick he couldn’t
Wait out or ignore
He never told anyone
His prayer
For he did not
Want to seem scared
He saved up
Once to see a doctor
Because he felt so bad
And was told of
An operation he needed
But knew that could
Never happen
And has learned to live
With it
Being poor he knew
Was about learning to
Live with what would
Never happen
And finally he thought
The day had come
His chest hurt so bad
And he didn’t want to die
And he went back to the ER
And this time he was sick
Enough and didn’t have to wait
They told him maybe his heart
Maybe his gall bladder
Maybe emergency surgery
Wait for the tests
And he apologized because
He knew he could never pay
And finally they came back
It wasn’t his heart
Wasn’t his gall bladder
They didn’t know why
He hurt so bad
But he should
Follow up with a doctor
If the pain returned
He felt a sadness
He knew he could never explain
And apologized once more
As he left
A very nice lady stopped him
At the check out station
And asked him
Who was paying
He explained about no
Insurance and she asked
If he could pay any deposit
On the day
He reached in his
Pocket and took out
His last two nickels
“You can half of what
I have….
Which one do you want?”
He was glad they
didn’t know
And so glad
He wasn’t going
To die
And felt so sorry
For the lady with
The nickel
It seemed like
Such a dumb thing
To say.

You see I know. Because it was me.

Tomorrow is a Moral Monday for Insure Tennessee. I have read in the papers already about how it is foolishness to believe that it has a chance. It is dead already they say.

I don’t know about the battle. I know about the war. I hope tomorrow is more than one day. It is time to ask Governor Haslam and our legislators not about their political “realities” but about their moral testimony and about moral Tuesdays and moral Wednesdays and moral everydays…. So many people are such good people. Do we have to settle? Can we not ask, not expect more?

The song says, “ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around. ” My prayer is for a moral day tomorrow. And my biggest prayer is that we never, never ever, for no reason, for no season ever let them turn us around.

God bless.

Not yet

March 28, 2015 by

TED Talks: TED: Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve – Carol Dweck (2014) http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIw5YyJ9Ro

The price of shame

March 28, 2015 by

TED Talks: Monica Lewinsky: The price of shame. http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIwi6aYmxI

On Justin Jones, on Jesus and more than a Moral Monday

March 28, 2015 by

Justin Jones is just 20 years old. He doesn’t make you just believe in young people. He gives you hope for people. He is a leader in Tennessee in the fight for Insure Tennessee, most specifically in facilitating a faith based coalition supporting Insure. He is instrumental in the development of the Moral Monday for Insure Tennessee, but his influence has been felt far more than just there.

He loves Jesus Christ but knows the measure of that is not in anything he has or accomplishes, but in what he gives. His platform, his mission is to love others. It is a love that comes without pose or calculation. It is simply who he is.

He was on the Journey to Justice a couple of weeks ago and I got to walk and talk for a while with him. We walked during a time I was having a hard time with the hills and somehow walking with him I didn’t feel slow. I told him about the journey Linda and I had been on for the last year, the people we had met and what our hopes were. He shared some of his journey but I really think he liked listening better.

He told me that our story had played a major role in him becoming an activist. He told me about Moral Monday and asked me if I would like to speak at the rally. I told him I didn’t know if I could make it or not but how honored I was that he would even consider me.

At the end of the walk I hurt in places I didn’t know I had to hurt in. I could barely walk but I knew I was lucky. It was in meeting Justin but more than that. I felt myself among heroes and knew I was blessed. It was Pam Weston and Anna Grabowski who walked every day and every mile. It was Katie and her daughters. It was Mary Headrick who has been walking such a very long time. It was Laura Sells….Todd…Rich….Walter…. And there were more. I left knowing that a day with the best of people was a best of days and I so badly needed that.

I talked to Justin last night and told him it looked like I might not make it Monday. Life like it too often does looked like it might get in the way. He told me again he wanted me to talk and told me if I couldn’t make it send something and he would read it.

Justin I still don’t know if I am coming. May not really know until Monday morning. Below is the talk that I would give if I came. Feel free to share as you feel led.

You and everyone involved are in my prayers.

(The video is a bonus. It seems to fit somehow the occasion.)

Jesus, Friend of Sinners – Casting Crowns: https://youtu.be/ipwEtvWL_3c


This rally is not just simply about a day although it is certainly about that. It is about a process, a way of doing all days. It is about politics but a politics that puts people before parties and recognizes that doing the right thing is victory above all victories. It is about taking the promises of this country seriously. It is in recognizing that all of us are mortal and make mistakes but that no one should die or have his life ruined because of public policy. It is about knowing we can and should do better and that the biggest question is not what can we afford to do but, if we are to be the kind of people we want to be, what can we afford to not do. It is about knowing that Insure Tennessee is the only train leaving the station and the only choice is to care or to abandon those in need. It is about winning a battle tomorrow but also about a war and knowing regardless of how this battle or any battle after it goes we will never stop until the war is won. It is about you. It is about me. It is about Tennessee.

No one need die or suffer because help is not available to them. We can do better and Insure Tennessee offers us a way.

May God bless each of us. May His presence give us strength and vision and may this day lead to more and better days for all of us.

Thank you.

On the worth of human life

March 28, 2015 by

Adapted from an earlier post

We are engaged in a battle

to define the worth of human life…

In a land that defines itself as the best of everything

The question is whether or not
access to that best
need be an artifact of position,
or wealth or material circumstances,
of social standing and class.

In a land where no one need die of untreated illness
or sickness

Can we live in such a way that the benefits
of our knowledge and science
be a gift to all our people

must it be rationed only to those who meet some financial criteria or position?

The question is whether or not
some lives are disposable,
that people can cost too much.

And if people cost too much
what value, what true value
do we hold any life?

It is a question
not of what we can do,
or what we can afford,
but of who we are and
who we can become.

In times increasingly mean,
it is ultimately a question not
of what we can survive,

But rather in the final measure
can we survive ourselves?

The last weekend of Insure Tennessee: personal reflections

March 27, 2015 by

Insure Tennessee, Tennessee’s plan to insure the uninsured, was supposed to have died the first week of February.   7 senators, in a committee stacked by the lieutenant governor, voted against.  It never went to the floor for a vote.  Those who voted against it had no other options or plans.  280,000 people who had begun to hope, after years of being ignored or told that they were the cause of the problems in the Tennessee Health system rather than its victims, that perhaps health care might become a reality for them too were told in a firestorm of political rhetoric that health care for them was a bad deal and wouldn’t happen.

It has found second life.  Thousands and thousands of Tennesseans called and walked and talked.  They told their representatives that they deserved to be heard and would not stop until they were.  They told their representatives that Tennessee could and should be better, that partisan politics should not define the lives of the most vulnerable of our citizens.  They said Insure Tennesee.

Some courageous senators took the risk.  And make no mistake it was a risk.  Insure made it through the first committee Wednesday night even though the chairman was told at one point by the lieutenant governor not to bring it up.  But it is a fragile, very fragile life.  It goes into another committee this Tuesday probably with all odds stacked against it.  It could, and smart money says it will, die.

Advocates from across the state are in overdrive.  On Monday there will be a moral day of action at the Tennessee legislature.  The message will be simple.  Do not do the politically expedient thing.  Do not do the easy thing.  Do the right thing. Simply do the right thing.  Step past Republican.  Step past Democrat.  The question is to care or not care.  CARE….. Do the right thing.

Your voice is needed. It is time for all of us to do democracy. Call….write…If you can come to Nashville. Ask the people you elected to truly represent you. What is done now may define Tennessee for years and if you are one of the 280,000 without insurance it most certainly define the parameters of your life. Getting sick should not destroy anyone’s life and this weekend you have a chance to make it reality for so many people.

And if we don’t it may be the last weekend.

I am one of the 280,000 and  when Insure Tennessee was originally defeated I felt betrayed….way, way,way past betrayed.   I was left in a rage trying to figure out how a plan that costs nothing, that helps many, and that had escape provisions of it didn’t work was the object of fear and hatred. I listened to the rhetoric about Barrack Obama and wondered how such an unrelenting hatred for one man could trump concern for 280,000 of your neighbors lives.  I could not understand how a state that receives more in federal aid  than it pays in federal taxes could be so insistent that the federal government was going to break its word.  How could a government which got 40% of its funds from federal money, and wouldn’t exist in its current form without federal money be so suspicious and so paranoid of this federal money? I was devastated and the truth is for a period of time I gave up.

For my wife and I it has been so long of a battle. It has been a year longer than any year. We separated December 26, 2013 because without Tenn Care expansion it was the only way to keep her insurance and give her access to medical care that she needed so badly. I started writing Governor Haslam letters a couple of months latter asking for help. For a long time I wrote every day and after 136 letters I heard he had decided to present Insure Tennessee to the legislature.

Ours was a circumstance borne of poverty and in many ways we were lucky. We had no terminal illness or immediate threat to deal with. For us it was trying to survive a system that said after 33 years of marriage we could not be together and trying to find sanity in what has been insanity.

I would like to say we are both better people but the truth is much more complex than that. We have both been hurt in a hundred thousand ways and face challenges every day we never really believed we would ever know. We both have given up more than one time. If Insure Tennessee dies….. I don’t know. I don’t know if we are better. We are different and some days it is not a good difference.

I have been lucky with my health. I need an operation, but it is a minor operation and if I am careful I should be alright. A trip to the doctor in the last few days tells me that perhaps some problems are on the narrow horizon and some of those may be serious, but for now I am okay.

I have been free from insurance for about 7 years now and although freedom is important to me that is a freedom I would gladly lose. I have never known of anybody without insurance who thought having it was a bad thing. I have never met anyone with insurance that hated it so bad they were willing to give me theirs. As I get older now and am beginning to see what is ahead I begin to see it more and more as a race. Will I, and countless others, get insurance while it still matters. I have known of people who lost the race. They died and didn’t have to. Insure Tennessee would win that race for so many. I pray it happens

I don’t want this to be the last weekend. With all of us trying it need not be. It is an uphill battle but one worth fighting. We can win and I can’t think of a more important victory.

Please speak out. You matter. We all matter. Insure Tennessee.

For Insure Tennessee……”Light one candle”

March 27, 2015 by

Peter, Paul and Mary – Light One Candle (25th Anniversary Concert): https://youtu.be/h1cRXgDFiSs

On Moral Monday…. and moral Tuesday

March 27, 2015 by

To the members of the Senate Commerce Committee:

Monday has been designated as Moral Monday for Insure Tennessee.  Clergy, people of faith, people who know that all politics is ultimately a moral question will gather to share their concerns, their ideas, their hopes and more than anything to pray for everybody wrestling with the questions and issues ahead.

Monday is Moral Monday.  Tuesday is up to you.

Tuesday will not simply be a question of what you are against.  At its core it is about what you are for.  It is not just about what you think we can afford to do, but even more what you think we can’t afford to not do.  It is not just about what we do or don’t do for the people of Tennessee.  It is about ultimately the kind of people we are.

I don’t believe the debate before you is about the best way to care. There are no competing proposals. It is about doing something different or doing nothing at all. A lot of attention has been diverted by people trying to claim this proposal will cost money we don’t have. Doing what we are doing now costs money we don’t have…..a lot of money we don’t have.

But more than that it has a moral cost we don’t have to pay. The people coming on Monday would tell you the Bible is quite clear all throughout about the treatment of the poor. It is never presented as a suggestion, but as an expectation or even a commandment.

Please search your heart. You are in the prayers of many including many who probably politically disagree with you. The fates of thousands and thousands of people you will never meet ride with your deliberations.

If we are to be the people we wish to be then there are some things we just can’t afford not to do. I believe this is one of those things.

Please, please Insure Tennessee.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

Dear Senator McNally: Look at what it saves

March 26, 2015 by

Dear Senator McNally:

I listened to much of the committee meeting last night on Insure Tennessee.  Honestly I was overjoyed that most of your colleagues did not share your opinion.

I am really not sure I totally understand your position but it seems you are concerned that Insure Tennessee is going to cost Tennessee money it doesn’t have.  You tried to prove your point by saying that the hospital money is really state money and thus it costs the state.  I think you know that is not true.  Insure Tennessee costs Tennessee not one cent that under other circumstances it might spend elsewhere.  The hospital money is earmarked to help the state of Tennessee pay for the cost of medical care for its poorest citizens that you and others say it cant afford.  Nothing is being taken.  It is a gift.  I don’t think any other state in this country has hospitals making the same gift.

But there is a much more important point.  You talk about cost that we cant afford.  What about the costs of the consequences of 280,000 uninsured Tennesseans?  What about the costs of doing nothing?

What about the rural hospitals already closed and the others on the chopping block?  Are we to have one standard of care for rural Tennesseans and one for those who live in cities?

What about the cost of people losing their jobs because they cant access the health care needed to maintain that job?

What about the cost of lives ruined by the consequences of illnesses we have the knowledge and tools to treat who cant access that care because they are poor?

What about the people who have died who didn’t have to?

What about those yet to die?

Senator McNally so much could be gained.  So much is now being lost.  What we are talking about is far more than what category you put the hospital money in.  It is not just a question of what we can afford to do (which we can 100% of 100% leaves nothing for Tennessee to pay) but most very importantly what we cant afford not to do.

Senator McNally I have never heard your plan or the plan of anyone who argues against Insure Tennessee.  Surely you would not have us do nothing while people get sick, while lives are ruined, while our health care system is under attack, while people die that don’t have to.  Surely not.

Please reconsider your position Senator McNally.  It is time, long past time to Insure Tennessee.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

The fight for Insure Tennessee

March 25, 2015 by

Insure Tennessee has resurfaced, thanks to some courageous senators in the Tennessee State Senate. In an hour it goes before a Senate Health Committee trying to survive the next step in the process. The papers today say it still faces serious obstacles. It is time for everyone to redouble their efforts and push even harder. In the end it is about whether or not justice will be found for so many Tennesseans that have waited so long. It is about so many lives unnecessarily ruined and so many more that need not be ruined.

The argument in Tennessee is not about competing models of care. Despite all the high sounding rhetoric there are no competing models. It is an argument for care versus a feverish search to make abandonment a political, financial and moral value. It is not about how to care, but rather or not to care at all. In the end it is about making turning your back on the more needy and more vulnerable amongst you a virtue and political necessity.

If it is about abandonment it is about the everyday, deep in the pit experience of terror. It is terror not just of the sickness or challenges you face, but a terror borne of the spirit killing certainty that when you are the most vulnerable, the most fragile, the most needy that no one will be there. It is in the recognition that because of your poverty, because of where you live, because of many things, most of which you have no control that for some inexplicable reason it is against the rules for you to get the help you need. 

It is about a system that says because of your financial status you will most likely die earlier than your fellow citizens.

It is about a system that says that ordinary and expected illnesses that medical science can treat or cure may go untreated for you even if it should mean your unnecessary death.

It is about a system in which any sickness may present you with financial catastrophe that you can never get past.

It is about a system that threatens your ability to keep a job and provide for your family if you cant get the medical care you need to stay healthy enough to keep that job.

It is about a system that tries to tell you that you are the cause of why it doesn’t work well rather than the victim of how it does work.

It is about a system that threatens the safety and security of your family and that in the end tells your children something is wrong with them.

It is about a system that attacks the heart and soul of its members as much as it ignores their bodies.

It is about a system that treats poverty as a crime and a moral failing.

It is about a system that in abandoning its most vulnerable would have each of us abandon something of the best of ourselves.

It is about a system long past time to change.

Your voice matters. Speak loudly and more loudly. Do not stop or turn around.


Identity and Recovery

March 25, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

Disease management asks you to make changes despite who you are. The recovery model invites you to change because of who you can become.

The disease management model stains your identity with “what you got.” The recovery model liberates your identity with what you can overcome.

In the disease management model you are the source of deprivation. In the recovery model you are the source of strength.

Both see the reality of distress and misery in life although their accounts of it may widely differ. Only the recovery model sees the reality of transformed life.Identity is a major key in life.

Everything from the car we drive to the food we eat to the clothes we wear is sold on the basis of what it says about the kind of person we are. The identity of mentally ill is for many a “spoiled identity. ” It is not something likely…

View original 735 more words

My psychiatrist knows more about mental illness than he does about people

March 25, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

Have you ever heard someone say something like that?  I have….way too many times.

Too many psychiatrists buy into a simple minded view of human motivation.  People do what they do to get more of something positive or to stop or get out of something negative.  It is the basis behind the idea of compliance.  You move people by the consequences you deliver.  The key is to control the consequence.

Our penal system shows the limitations of that view.  People continue to do the things that bring bad things down on their head.  Consequences can control behavior but it is so much more complicated that the biggest stick or carrot you can find.  Just look at yourself.  How many times have you done things that bring the house down on your head?  Even when you know better…  Someone once told me that there is a real limit to how smart…

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Housing, not asylums

March 25, 2015 by

Housing, not asylums
【from Next Browser】

The best post ever on what recovery really means

March 24, 2015 by

Thanks Leah Harris… home run

Blog – Pete Earley
【from Next Browser】

When psychiatrists have no sense

March 24, 2015 by

More Treatment = Less Stigma | Psychology Today
【from Next Browser】

Someone once told me to be careful about what I told people I know lest I demonstrate too clearly how much I didn’t know. I think that should be the topic in the very first class that psychiatrists attend in how to be a psychiatrist school. Sometimes I despair when I read their descriptions of life. It is too often a color blind person trying to tell you everything is really a shade of gray. For a science that in the scientific sense actually knows very little they have an amazing propensity to tell you they know everything. And too often, at least it seems to often, what they say would be dismissed as worthless tripe if they didn’t have the title of doctor in front of their name. And so we have the article above.

I have read a lot of posts about stigma. Some think it is real important. Some think it is not. Some I agree with. Some I don’t. Some are really involved. Some simply say it is prejudice and discrimination. Some of the posts are very thoughtful. One is embarassingly, thoroughly embarassingly stupid. That is the post linked above.

Until today I, like I think many people, had never heard of the author. DJ Jaffe posted it on Facebook with some kind of comment about the remarkable insight of the author. I thought that comment was the only remarkable thing about what I read.

If you have not by now go back and read the post. You might not want to read it on an empty stomach, but do read it.

Before I talk specifically about what he said I wanted to share perhaps my strongest reaction. If you were to substitute the word “black” or “hispanic” for “mentally ill” would his entire statement not be dismissed as blatant racism? At best is his statement not baseless stereotypes and indicative of a deep prejudice against the people he claims to serve? You tell me. Am I overstating my case?

He writes:

The larger point is this: Stigma is a mark. Something physical. Something that sets a person – or group – apart from the rest. It is NOT the reaction of others to that mark. Society’s often bad reaction to those with serious mental illness is simply the symptom of the problem, not the problem. The root of the problem is the mark, the stigma.

Then what is the true stigma of serious mental illness? The mark? It’s the often bizarre, psychotic, violent behaviour of those so afflicted. This is what marks the serious mentally ill. This is what causes the public aversion. This is what we should be spending money to correct. People will never tolerate bizarre, violent, psychotic behaviour. Never have. Never will. To think otherwise is tragically naive.

Is he not saying the “mentally ill” bring it on themselves? Is he not saying something like “they wouldn’t be treated so bad if they weren’t so crazy”?

Is this guy an aberration? The “new asylum” folks are certainly much more polite but is their not a commonality amongst them? Isn’t the common message “those mentally ill people are just different than the rest of us.” Isn’t all this kind of a rationale for oppression and injustice? Again draw your own conclusions.

When psychiatry is used as social comment do you ever wonder how much sense there really is in psychiatric sense?


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