Alliance for a Healthy Kansas

There may be no greater beauty than driving through the Flint Hills nearly any time of year – on the cusp of spring most especially. I found my way to Wichita on Monday through those very Flint Hills for a roundtable with faith leaders and Gov. Laura Kelly and Sen. Majority Leader, Jim Denning. It was sponsored by the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas and was specifically and directly related to the bi-partisan desire to expand KanCare to cover more Kansans which is currently being held from debate on the Senate floor by the Senate President. Why would I drive 2 hours and 35 minutes (google maps said it would take me 2 hours and 42 minutes and I won by 7 minutes even stopping for a drive-thru McDonnie’s bfast) for essentially an hour-long meeting?

First of all because I wanted to see for myself if Gov. Kelly and Sen. Maj. Leader Jim Denning really could embody bi-partisanship and what that looks like in real life in real time. Not that I’m a political cynic, wait a minute, actually yes, yes I am in the current political climate. I drove through the Flint Hills listening to Mozart’s Requiem in D minor which he did not finish before his own death in 1791. Proooooobably not the best choice in an already less than optimistic place regarding politics in relation to those in greatest need. But it is beautiful nonetheless.

Second of all the invitation came from a young man currently working for the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas whose grandparents I knew and loved for oh so many years before their passing. His grandmother spent her life advocating for affordable healthcare and education particularly for women through Planned Parenthood, and his grandfather was the founder of “Project Equality” working for racial justice for working people across the nation. Both people doing barrier-breaking work long before it was easily accepted or trendy. I respect the courage of those leaders who have gone before us, whose names are not on any monuments or medals of honor, but whose work for the least among us embodies, for me, the gospel and life of Jesus. So when a grandson of such faith heroes calls to request my presence at a meeting, I will rearrange most and lots of things to fulfill that request.

Honestly? Frankly? Without icing on the cake? I was jolted out of my political cynicism quickly, if but for an hour, and completely. Here sat a Democratic Governor and a died in the wool Senate Republican, sharing a microphone and the same passion around expanding the number of folks who can receive healthcare across the state of Kansas. Their peripheral reasons come from quite different perspectives, but their essential passion and cause is the same. Senator Denning quite flatly and without drama explained what Gov. Kelly had been willing to do to fund an Actuarial group with an expertise around a particular part of the bill that she was less than enthused about but understood. In her willingness to reallocate those funds toward an effort he was leading, he then was willing to work with her – both across what often seems an unsurpassable aisle – to do their best for the state of Kansas and the communities therein.

They asked the clergy gathered for questions and comments – I spoke on behalf of our Center of Grace, because how could I not? Also speaking were an Episcopal Priest from Topeka, 3 Nuns were recognized for their combined statement of support representing Nuns across Kansas, a Baptist Pastor and a Pastor from the MCC denomination both from Wichita, and a United Methodist Pastor from a church in southwestern Kansas. As he began speaking the room became utterly silent as he explained that he and his spouse had recently declared bankruptcy because of a brain surgery she required and the follow-up medications she must have on a daily basis. When it came to them choosing whether to purchase food for their three kids (8, 10 and 12 years old) or her medications because they couldn’t do both, they made the difficult decision to declare bankruptcy.

When I got back in my car to come home, I drove to a park on the way out of Wichita and sat. It was a gorgeous day and I opened my windows for the ever-present breezes to blow through, and retrieved my prayer-beads out of my briefcase. I wondered for a moment if the Nuns would have had at least a little enjoyment from this Protestant pastor attempting to remember and quite slowly and a bit awkwardly taking myself through the prayers of thanksgiving, confession, petition, and gratefulness as I felt each bead pass through my fingers.

My thanksgiving was for Spenser who comes from a long line of DNA that seeks to make the world a better place and still believes much-older-than-his-millennial-self might have something to help in the cause for a better world. And for a couple of elected politicians who sit in very different places on most issues who found a way to compromise with integrity for the common good. My confession was that had I not seen it, I probably would not have believed it. And that while each elected official said they believed that if we can find a way to get this bill passed in Kansas it will become a template for compromise across the aisles in other states, I probably don’t believe that either. My petition was specifically for the UM Pastor who was willing to be vulnerable in front of a room full of colleagues from every denomination about his being part of the statistics that people talk most often about being lazy and simply wanting to use the system for their own benefit without there being true need. I pray for his spouse’s healing, for their 3 children and the stress they must feel in their home, and for his encouragement to keep walking in the face of clearly difficult circumstances. And they I prayed for all the other families whose stories I don’t know but who are having to make those same difficult decisions and are often judged without knowing their hardships or the often two or three jobs they’re working to try and make ends meet. My gratefulness was the beauty of the day and being fully present to hear, to experience, and to speak about Grace United Methodist Church that has connected to a mission Center for 20 years bringing healing and hope to all who come through those doors from any and every place to feel welcome, seen, and respected with care and assistance when and how we can.

After a time of prayer and reflection, and a short walk because on a 60 degree day it would be almost sinful not to breathe in deeply the robust and wide-open spaces of prairie grass and Kansas air, the car took me back through the Flint Hills, albeit without the race against google maps. There is always more work for us to do as faithful followers of Jesus than there are hours in the day, but the hours in the day spent in mind and body connected to both the beauty and the heartache of what it is to be human is much the center of the Lenten journey. And sometimes that journey is even through the Flint Hills with a Mozart Requiem in D minor enveloping the soul.

The Requiem in D minor may be one of Mozart’s creations that is particularly an acquired taste, but I offer a part of it for your journey . . .