My name is Dr. Sonny Saggar. I founded Downtown Urgent Care (DUC) in March 2009, and I have had the joy this year of celebrating 10 years of this fulfilling experiment. I have never earned an income from the creation of this facility. I got my pay from being an ER doctor or from a consulting gig here and there. If I had demanded a paycheck from DUC, it wouldn’t have survived more than a couple of years. I want to say something today in this post, about all the stuff I go on about. Why do I torment my readers with all this talk of doing what is right, with how DUC is one of the few facilities that accepts patients on Medicaid, who are among the poorest people in our society? Why do I think it’s a big deal that DUC is open 24 hours a day? It was not lost on me that I was shouting my soliloquies in an echo chamber, and only to those people who were also on social media. So I want to speak with you people.
I am going to assume that you people are probably more likely to have health insurance, and that you have a job and a car and a place to live. That you’re not homeless or otherwise impoverished. I have never been poor but I have met thousands of poor people since I started at medical school back in 1986. I’ve always been a bit of a loose cannon and a deliberate disruptor, but if there was any cause that captivated my imagination it was that of socioeconomic prejudice. That’s why I have asked people many times to show solidarity with those who are less fortunate.
If I can mobilize people who have never been on the downside of privilege, or who have never been anything close to being described as ‘poor’, to act on behalf of those who are poor, of those who have been turned away from a medical facility because they “didn’t have the right insurance”, or who’ve gone without a meal day after day, then I think it’s helping fix things.
Humans have a power known as empathy, which leads to collective action that gets people access to medical care and actually saves lives. You ‘comfortable people’ and I hope you will forgive me for calling you that, whose personal wellbeing and security is assured. You could join together in ever-increasing numbers to help those who you do not even know, but whom you walk past or drive past almost every day. You can help those people who, believe it or not, are also part of your community.
No, you’re not going to see them at that fundraiser, because they’re busy working 2 or 3 jobs, just get some food on the table. No, they’re definitely not ‘in your circle’, because, well, because they’re poor, or they’re less educated, or they didn’t go to the same school as you, or maybe they didn’t even go to school. But they’re still part of your community. They are poor and you are not. And if you can extend them a little help by only using medical facilities that do also help ‘those people’, then your small participation in this process could be one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of your life.
Human beings can learn and understand [to a certain degree] without having experienced what it was like to be a certain way. Straight people can understand [to a certain degree] what it’s like to be gay. White people can understand [to a certain degree] what it’s like to be black. Men and women can even understand one another [to a certain degree]. Cis people can understand [to a certain degree] what it’s like to be trans. Wealthy people can understand [to a certain degree] what it’s like to be poor. Families with health insurance can understand [to a certain degree] what it’s like not to have health insurance for a family. People living in free countries can understand [to a certain degree] what it’s like to live in an oppressive regime. Some of us can understand [to a certain degree] what it’s like to be pregnant as a result of rape, without ever having to have suffered that.
All these people I have listed are all part of your community. They are your brothers and sisters, whether you accept them or not.
I say can understand, in that we have the capacity and ability to do it, but we all know that only some of us use that super-power. And many of us don’t use it.
Humans can think themselves into other peoples' places [to a certain degree].
So you can choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of your own experience never troubling to wonder how it would feel to be born other than what you are. You can refuse to listen and know what ‘those people’ are experiencing. You can close your minds and your heart to any suffering that may be going on. You have the right to switch off your empathy if you so wish, but be careful. The willfully unempathetic actually see more monsters than those with exercise their empathy.
More importantly, those who choose not to empathize, enable the monsters. They enable the medical facilities that turn people away, just because they have Medicaid. They enable the State legislators that call a woman a murderer if she chooses to have an abortion at 8 weeks gestation. They enable the law enforcement officer who shoots an unarmed motorist for ‘resisting arrest’. They enable the government that discriminates against people because of religion or nationality. The list is endless.
What we all achieve inwardly, will change our outer realities. We are all connected. We all touch one another just by existing.
You can use your status and your influence to raise your voice on behalf of those with no voice (or a quieter voice). If you are privileged or comfortable, you have the power to help those who are not. You just have to decide to do it. You have the power to not turn your back on them.
Even if you have only identified with the powerful, you can now start to also see that you can also identify with the powerLESS. They are your family too.
You have the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, and you can help change the reality of millions of people, or even just a few hundred people in your own town.
That’s all I wanted to say today.
Happy Memorial Day everyone!