One brutal reality of deep poverty can be observed daily in the inner-city of Dallas: needless, preventable suffering.
Equally difficult, and linked in a causal manner to the suffering I envision, is simple, but maddening delay.
When you live in poverty, everything seems to slow down in the face of complicating distractions.
Take my friend "John."
I met John over a year ago at our Opportunity Center. He came seeking medical attention for his gigantic, abdominal hernia that protruded from his tight t-shirt. After we visited for a while, I referred him to CitySquare's health clinic. He ended up in the ER at a local hospital after which he made his way to Parkland, our public hospital in Dallas County.
Several weeks later, John shows up at my office looking as if he had lost 50 pounds, a step his physician recommended as a pre-surgery precaution. He had a ways to go on his diet plan. Again, a goal made more difficult to he extreme because he lived on the streets.
He signed up for housing and languished for weeks on our jammed packed waiting list (just here read "more delays").
Then, he reappears two days ago.
He had gained back the weight that he had shed, and then some. He explained that he just gotten of jail behind warrants for tickets that actually were not his.
As we discussed his dilemma, many more defeating, delaying details surfaced. Of course, not the least of these worries included his hernia, now larger than before. He also informed me that he battled severe diabetes, a fight made almost impossible by his homelessness.
He looked sick and felt worse.
I took him to see our community health expert, J. R. Newton, RN, MDiv. Next thing I know I have a text from J. R. telling me that she has John at the Parkland ER. Today she updated me, saying that John was admitted to the hospital where he was receiving treatment for his diabetes.
When admitted to the hospital he was "very, very sick." His blood sugar on admission read 723 (normal is 95-110). He was lucky to be alive.
I feel compelled to record his story. Not to make anyone feel bad, but to describe what people trapped in poverty face on a daily and often prolonged basis.
Pray for John, please.
Think of him as you think of our city and our collective response to deep, extreme poverty. Think of how we might effective ways to at least decouple "needless" from "suffering."