It's been one day since I received the news that the Senate agreed to accept the House budget proposal and one day since I have helped (in a small way) with the Joplin Relief efforts. I cannot help but compare a natural disaster to an un-natural disaster. In both instances, people lose lives, families, housing, employment and access to healthcare. In both instances, there is media coversage. The Joplin Disaster is all over the news. So is the Illinois Disaster. But perhaps one difference is that we don't call it a human disaster. Instead we call it a budget crisis because reducing numbers is more palatable conversation than reducing lives.
On Wednesday, May 18th, I spoke with Representative Dan Beiser. As many of you know, noise is sometimes like an assualt on my senses. Though I have been in the capital several times without any problem, that day I was not able to turn down the volume of the noise. Just imagine standing right next to the engine of an airplane. That's what I was experiencing. By the time I saw Representative Beiser, I was in tears. I remember blurting out something to the effect that this is not how I wanted him to see me. I wanted him to see a competent woman. Instead he saw a tearful woman that was considerably shaken. Representative Beiser immediately reached out to me and said "You ARE a competent woman." His compassionate response genuinely touched me. It's hard to know exactly what to do when someone is experiencing distress, but his verbal affirmation was just what I needed to hear to set aside my feelings about my appearance and move forward with the conversation.
We talked for about twenty minutes and it was not the easiest discussion for either of us. It was hard for me to both encourage and hold him accountable for decisions that were before him. Even as I write this, it is hard for me to share with you that perhaps what concerned me most about our conversation is that he did not know which specific programs in Madison County are facing budget cuts. I take no pleasure in saying that our elected officials honestly do not know the disaster that is upon us.
That same day I had stopped by Senator Bill Haine's office and left a letter with his secretary. Then a week later on Wednesday, May 25th, I made a follow-up phone call to Senator Haine's office. I was told that Senator Haine had not yet read my letter. I have no way of knowing if Senator Haine read the information I provided as a constituent before the Senate foolishly decided to go with the House recommendations. What I do know is that I do not like sharing this information with you today. I would much rather blog how our elected officials are protecting the health, safety and welfare of persons dependent upon human services. But I have not yet been given that opportunity.
With both a natural and un-natural disaster, there are similarities and differences. Perhaps the most significant difference is that an F5 tornado cannot be prevented, yet a disproportionate budget CAN be prevented if only our elected officials would act with courage to make it so...if only everyday people would offer relief efforts by advocating on behalf of persons who are not positioned to advocate on their own behalf...if only compassion would be turned into action that demonstrates people really do care about their neighbors and those less fortunate...if only...