They have our backs. We should have theirs

(This is based on a longer column here.)

Yeah that’s my car, whose alternator died Monday on Chicago’s Dan Ryan expressway at rush hour. It wasn’t my favorite experience, in various ways. Yet the Lord works in mysterious ways to remind us of our blessings. A gentleman from the Illinois Department of Transportation pushed my car into a safe location. He then kept discreet watch for almost two hours until the tow truck arrived.

The tow truck driver happened to have graduated from a tough Chicago high school where I helped to field a violence prevention intervention last year. He works a grueling all-night shift to support his fiancé and two children. When he gets home in the morning, he hands his young son a few bucks and some change for the piggy bank. His son calls out: “Look Mommy, Daddy brought us home some money!”

A quick internet check suggests that this guy earns $15 or $20 per hour. That’s not much when you are supporting a family of four. Like most tow truck drivers, he’s uninsured. A crude but useful internet survey finds that 39 percent of tow truck drivers get medical coverage. (A scary 11 percent have vision coverage.)

I earn much more money. Some might conclude that I am the superior contributor to American society, simply because I hold a more lucrative job. After all, my tax dollars support a social safety-net that tow truck driver’s family might use: the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid, CHIP, and more. Yet this truck driver and that IDOT guy operate a safety-net for me, too, which I used when I encountered trouble along the road.

Much important work is done by people with sore backs and calloused hands who don’t get paid that much, but who pick our fruit, diaper our kids, prepare our meals, drive our kids to school, and more. My brother-in-law was recently hospitalized with a minor infection. In the next bed over, two nurse’s aides gently cleaned a very-sick uninsured man. I’ll probably need that help someday, too.

Each of us is both a maker and a taker in life. I shouldn’t apologize for my good paycheck. I shouldn’t object, either, if I’m asked to pay a little more so that these tow truck drivers and nurse’s aides have access to decent medical care. They have my back. I should have theirs, too.

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