The merciful ten per cent

Kurt Vonnegut said that ten percent of the people are cruel, ten percent are merciful, and eighty percent can go either way. In spite of what we see in the news, which by nature focuses on the disruptive and dangerous, many people persist in helping fellow humans who need a hand or a home or a haircut or an encouraging smile. Here are a few of the merciful ten percent or maybe of the eighty percent who have chosen to do good, whether or not it’s in fashion.

President Jimmy Carter, who at 94 still teaches Sunday School and works on projects for Habitat for Humanity, alongside his wife of 70 years, First Lady Rosalynn Carter.
Tony Adkins, the dancing doctor who brings joy to his young patients by dancing with them.

Mark Bustos, a hair stylist who gives free haircuts to the homeless during his off-work time.
Doctors Without Borders
Ordinary teachers all over the country giving it all they’ve got every single day.

…and many, many more, the essence of what has always made America great in spite of our failures, which many of us deeply regret. Happy Independence Day 2019.

Definitions: private, cooperative, and universal health care

March 29, 2020

The foundation of any insurance program is this: Individuals put money into a common fund, to be used by any of those individuals in case of specified circumstances.

WITH PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE, YOU PAY
*Your contribution to the common fund
*Administrative costs (managers, clerks, accountants, etc.)
*WHATEVER THE OWNER AND STOCKHOLDERS DECIDE THEY CAN TAKE FROM THE COMMON FUND AS THEIR “PROFIT”

WITH PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE, YOU RECEIVE
*Payment for your health care, according to what you and the owners have agreed to in a contract

WITH COOPERATIVE HEALTH INSURANCE, YOU PAY
*Your contribution to the common fund
*Administrative costs (managers, clerks, accountants, etc.)

WITH COOPERATIVE HEALTH INSURANCE, YOU RECEIVE
*Payment for your health care, according to what you and the owners have agreed to in a contract

UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE
It is like cooperative insurance, but it also covers people who, for reasons beyond their control, have not contributed to the common fund. Universal health care may be owned by government. It must be overseen by government. Most universal health care programs adjust contributions based on ability to pay, rather than on the extent of coverage as with other types of insurance.

Obviously, any kind of insurance can work satisfactorily or it can be abused and corrupted. The results depend on the good faith and competence of the managers and overseers. Ultimately, the contributors themselves must see that good managers and administrators are hired and held accountable. In the case of government programs, the people who are represented must also see that honest and good-faith representatives are elected and held accountable on a regular basis.

Mary Ann Lesh

Misinformation, disinformation, misconceptions, and lies

Wikipedia Guide to Misinformation About the Coronavirus

It is easy to fall into conspiracy theories, miraculous preventatives and remedies, and finding the truth can be hard. I can’t claim to know the answers or what is true and what isn’t. Wikipedia is not trying to be the definitive voice of truth; however, this article gives as much substance of the questionable claims as one could hope for, as well as the evidence known to date for and against such claims. They are updating it constantly and providing links to help all of us find what is credible and what is true and separate the half-truths, misconceptions, and misinformation from information that can really help.

I am open to alternative preventions and cures as well as creative thinking about almost everything. I don’t think we should “throw the babies out with the bath water,” but it is important in a crisis to stay grounded in what we know, what is credible, and what is logical.

This is a good time to dust off our critical thinking skills. They may save lives.

Beware of click-bait and carnival barkers getting richer by peddling false hope.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to organize living and work spaces. The test is whether they work for the ones who use them. These are some characteristics of well-organized spaces.

  1. Things are easy and quick to find, retrieve, use, and put away.
  2. The space is conducive to the activity or activities that are carried out there.
  3. The surroundings remove stress from the activity rather than adding to it.

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep. I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. Ecclesiastes 5:10-15

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Proverbs 23:4-5

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Nana was a minimalist but didn’t know it

Nana was one of the most contented, generous, and positive people I have ever known. She didn’t have much, but if she wanted more, she didn’t talk about it. She didn’t talk about the past. She lived in the present and the near future, keeping her little house in order, buying groceries, visiting relatives, going to church, reading the paper, making quilts.

Bessie Griner Rice, whom we called Nana, was Mama’s mother. She lived on Bonham Street in Nocona, Texas, in a white clapboard house with a built-on bedroom that she had shared with my grandfather, William Marion Rice, until he died. It was an almost-tiny house, and it contained all her worldly goods, which would qualify as “minimal” by any standard.

An alcove off the living room had been turned into a bathroom with a second-hand commode and clawfoot bathtub. A couch facing the front door folded out to make a bed. In a narrow passage that led to the kitchen, a tiny closet held Nana’s wardrobe, three or four flower- or check-print dresses, a hat, a pair of Sunday shoes. A curtained sink in the kitchen doubled as the lavatory. A recessed cabinet on the wall held a few dishes and maybe a box of cereal, some rice, beans, salt, pepper, flour, and not much more. There was a small gas stove, a table and chairs, and a wooden ice-box. The added-on room with windows on all sides had just enough space for a double bed and matching dresser and a foot-pedal sewing machine where Nana worked on patchwork quilts made of our discarded clothes and scraps from Aunt Dorothy’s sewing projects.

Without pattern book or drawing, she arranged the random scraps into symmetrical patterns. For my babies she made beautiful little quilts from old party dresses, velvet, taffeta, satin, and lace. Nana’s quilts had something of herself in the careful arrangement of the patterns and the meticulous stitches, and they bound up memories of how we were and the things we had done when we wore the clothes that the patches had come from.

The house was cheerful and cozy, furnished mostly with used things that Nana’s grown-up children had given her. New things were birthday or Christmas presents: a light-colored cedar chest, bed and matching dresser, and whatnot shelves displaying porcelain dolls, perfume bottles, and pictures of her grandchildren.

In winter a little gas heater warmed the house up in a few minutes. Snuggled deep under the quilts and blankets in the cold room, I could hear Nana up and about early muttering about the cold. She would light the stove with a “Varrrroooom” as the gas, which she turned on long before she lit the match, sucked in the flame. “A wonder she hasn’t blown us all to kingdom come,” my mother would say. Then Nana would go back to bed, and we would all wait under the covers until the house was warm and we could get up and drink boiled coffee.

Behind the house, sunflowers and daisies grew wild; in the front, two big shade trees were just right for climbing. Nana tended her irises and canna lilies carefully, but she didn’t mind when I tried for several years to dig my way to China with a teaspoon in the soft dirt next to the flower beds. In summer, the adults would sit in metal chairs on the front porch to eat cantaloupe or watermelon and catch up on gossip, while the children sat on the steps, made mudpies, or worked on the China Project.

We went to visit Nana often. My mother, attuned to some inner calendar, would announce, “I’ve got to go see Mama.” Nana came to our house too. She would cook and embroider and watch TV with us for a few days. Then, one hand on an ample hip, she would say, “I’ve got to get back.” And we would take her back to her little house in Nocona, my mother wondering out loud what it was that she had to “get back” to.

My illness, myself

How the Medical-Industrial Complex Turns Patients into Consumers

The ideal medical consumer suffers from one or more chronic ailments that are treatable but not curable with drugs. They want to convince them that they will need these drugs for the rest of their lives. The medical-industrial complex in the United States is a disease-management system rather than a health-care system.

Pharmaceutical corporations want us to embrace our diseases, cherish them, find comfort in support groups, treat them forever but never banish them, never shed the identity bound up in the phrase my disease. They have given sexy names, like Erectile Dysfunction and Overactive Bladder, to certain unmentionable symptoms, promoting them from mere symptoms to full-fledged diseases. Join the Type 2 Diabetes Fraternity with B. B. King (RIP). Solve, but don’t heal, Your Acid Reflux Disease. Find Friends and exchange stories of misery in the Society of Migraine Sufferers.

“Me and B. B. King have a lot in common,” says this appealing round-faced adolescent. “He has diabetes. I have diabetes.” B. B. King strums his famous guitar and laughs paternally. Testing becomes a ritual of bonding between the aspiring guitarist and the master. There are reasons to treat diabetes, to invest in sexy little testing devices, but there is no motivation to seek a cure. Diabetes is who they are. There is no mention, of course, that there are people like Marc Ramirez, who reports that he and his wife Kim reversed Type 2 diabetes by adopting a whole food plant-based lifestyle. It’s more fun to share an illness with an idol.

This middle-aged woman calls herself “a problem solver.” However, she tells us, she has not succeeded in “solving” what she calls “my acid reflux disease.” Solving. Not healing. Not eradicating. She goes back to her doctor, although we are not told when or why she went to him in the first place, nor why the doctor didn’t tell her the whole truth to begin with (“over time, the esophagus is eroded”). So, with a little prodding from this enlightened patient he prescribes Nexium. “I don’t just feel better,” she says in closing, “I AM better.” Better. Not well. Not over it. Not healthy. She is not just grateful for that little purple pill. It will be as much a part of her life as her acid reflux disease*. The ad does not, of course, direct us to articles like this one: Plant-Based Diet Alleviates Reflux as Effectively as Medications. She doesn’t want to know. Acid Reflux, by the way, is a symptom, not a “disease,” but Acid Reflux “Disease” is who she is, and Nexium is her drug.

Elizabeth Moss makes it painfully clear that her character is A Migraine Sufferer. It is her identity. If I am equally miserable, she invites me to join her. Migraines will always be part of who she is, and Excedrin is her drug of choice. Don’t tell her about the Physicians’ Committee Plant-Based Prescription for Migraines because she–or her character, anyway–is well on her way to becoming a good little profit generator for pharmaceutical companies.

Apparently, in spite of dire warnings of death and permanent damage in the ads themselves, people are embracing the “my disease” lifestyle, and there are big bucks in it for pharmaceutical cartels and a bloated medical establishment.

Curanderos

Maybe everyone grows up with a narrow framework for deciding what is normal, what is exotic, and what is abnormal. I certainly did. When I moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, in my early twenties, there were many things about life there that seemed exotic to me. Some things, like mangoes and papayas, became normal to my expanding Texan mind, but wherever I look, even after many years, there are sights to see, foods to try, experiences to have, and ideas to explore that still amaze me.

Back in North Texas, sweet iced tea was the only tea I knew anything about, and home remedies were limited to merthiolate and mentholatum. We went to the doctor for just about anything that couldn’t be treated with those smelly substances. The doctor would prescribe dreaded shots, pills, or terrible-tasting liquids in mysterious-looking bottes. If all else failed, he (the doctor was always a “he” when I was a child) would put you in the hospital, cut some part of you open, do some sort of magic, and then sew you back up.

In Mexico, even though my husband was a medical student in a conventional medical school, I learned about a surprising number of alternative remedies that didn’t involve a health professional. In addition to Vicks Vaporub in Mamá’s ropero, there was manzanilla (chamomile) tea in the kitchen to relieve tummy aches and te de tila (linden flower tea) to calm down an overwrought family member. A savila (aloe vera cactus) plant in the patio was snipped as needed for healing gel to treat burns from the sun, the kitchen, or naughty kids playing with matches. American cough syrup reeks of eucalyptus oil, but in Mexico you can buy dried eucalyptus leaves in the mercado and make a potion to drink or gargle as needed. Common cooking ingredients like vinegar, cinnamon, and onions, do double duty as home remedies for all kinds of ailments. Agua de jamaica (hibiscus flower water) has medicinal uses, like lowering blood pressure, but it is more commonly just cooled, sweetened, and served as a beverage.

There is renewed worldwide interest in ancient healing practices, as chemically distilled herbs and other substances, what we call medicines, start to let us down. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria and drugs with side effects worse than the diseases they purport to remedy make headlines and cause professionals and laypeople alike to wonder if we maybe threw out a lot of proverbial babies with the proverbial bathwater of old-fashioned remedies. Modern surgical techniques indeed work miracles, but at their very finest, they are alarmingly crude and risky and always leave a scar, no matter how imperceptible.

With renewed interest in healing foods and herbs comes a revival of interest in ancient healers throughout Latin America and wherever remnants of ancient cultures are kept alive. This revival has created a burgeoning industry of shaman-seeking tourism, and with it flourishing business opportunities for neoshamans and faux shamans. Nevertheless, among Mexicans, many city people and most rural residents know where to find at least one authentic curandero. I was shocked to learn that my educated cosmopolitan Mexican friends and family members, whom I saw as perfectly normal and modern by my small-town Texas standards, thought nothing of scheduling a limpia (cleansing) before moving into a new house or after a run of bad luck, and they knew exactly which shaman, or curandero, of their acquaintance could do it.

Armando Gonzalez-Stuart, a researcher at The University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) has published a beautiful, informative, and useful book with the title Plants Used in Mexican Traditional Medicine. It has a brief history of traditional medicine in Mexico, an alphabetical list of plants used for healing, with their scientific names, some of their common names, and photographs of most of them.

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