Angels Unawares

Growing up in the Southern Baptist tradition (my mom's idea, not my dad's), I believed in prayer, intercession, guardian angels, and Jesus holding my hand. I prayed more than most kids my age and had what's called God experiences through that period in all kids' lives when different centers in the brain open up and begin to gel. I had a healthy relationship with my heavenly father, I believe, because I had a healthy relationship with my earthly father. Throughout my life I've observed that this often holds true with others as well. These days, however, I'm not sure where I stand on the God issue. Actually, I believe that anyone who claims to be agnostic is honest not only with themselves but with others and that people who say they know without a doubt that there is or is not a God are conversely dishonest; none of us know what the hell's going on. That's one of the Big Deals about being human. I begrudge no one for believing what they wish, but at least claim to believe something because it lends comfort or meaning, not because of some circular logic: "I believe in the Bible because the Bible tells me it's the infallible Word of God."

One thing I do know is that if there are guardian angels in this world, they visit us in the form of our friends and loved ones. Not many prayers have been answered in my life, but whenever I've supplicated my friends and family, I always get an answer. Some answers I've liked and some I haven't, but them's the breaks.

For the past week I've lived in misery due to a toothache. If you've ever had to live with a toothache, you know that it's the worst hell one can feel because the pain doesn't confine itself just to the tooth that needs help, it radiates to every other tooth, into the face, eye, ear, and head, and often the stomach. The problem is, I have no dental insurance and dentists charge so much, I can't afford to go in when I need to, much less on a regular basis.

It's a crisis in this country. About 100 million Americans have no dental insurance and the numbers are rising. One of the problems is that dental care is still viewed as largely a cosmetic issue. This needs to be changed in our consciousness not only nationally, but personally. You can break a limb and go untreated and it probably won't end in your death, but people are dying of blood poisoning due to untreated dental issues. Additionally, dentists are reporting more and more cases of severe malnutrition due to dental illness as well. Health starts from the head and works down. That we need to maintain dental wellness is only logical.

The pain has gotten so bad in the last couple of days (despite all of the home remedies of hydrogen peroxide, vanilla, clove, OTCs, and etc.) that I finally said something in Facebook. Enter Ville, for whom Tylenol-3 does nothing. This morning she brought her bottle over and I'm now experiencing an amazing degree of relief. My plan is to get the pain under control and then take myself to the ER in the next day or two to get some antibiotics. That should take care things until I can work out some way to afford a dentist visit.

Over the past 15 years I've learned that if any of us are going to survive this new America with its healthcare, economic, and civil rights problems, it will only be through friends and families pulling together to help each other. Heaven knows the government doesn't care.

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