birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Un-Commonn Weal

When I was a girl, we seldom went to doctors. I never saw a dentist.

When I had to get glasses at 15 when I could no longer read the chalkboard at the front of class, my parents were quick and brutal in explaining that losing my glasses would be losing my access to education. I became absolutely careful of my glasses’ whereabouts at ALL TIMES!

My father was a carpenter, a “union” carpenter. The day they signed a contract that included our first medical insurance was stunning in its juxtaposition of ordinary and profound.

I was sixteen.

The union began to collect small sums of money from its member artisans, AND from the companies employing them. That money went into something called a “mutual fund”, so that when there was a need, “a real need”, everyone could get medical care. My mother painstakingly explained all of this, to my brother and me, over and over again.

To her it was a miracle—a saving, life enhancing miracle.

Now my brother could have treatment for asthma, and so could she. My father could get pills to help him metabolize the sugar backing up in his blood.

What fascinated me about it all was the “mutual” of the funds. In my general business class one day, coincidentally, the teacher described how ordinary people join together to create a common way of caring for everyone--a mutual fund.

It made simple sense to me: like the potluck dinners we had on our block in the summertime—everyone shares a little something and we all end up better off and fuller for it.

It wasn’t just “fair”. It was amazingly rich, and generous, and full of fun and care.

What seems to me today, fifty years later, to be surpassingly UNFAIR is turning “mutual” funding for health into investment profit centers of greed. Some things simply should NOT be sources of capital, but should be simple sources of the commonweal!

It is no accident that “wealth” and “health” both derive from “weal”—“that which is best for”!

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