Terry Sterrenberg, co-producer of “The Healthcare Movie”: So if I were going to write a blog, what would I be writing about healthcare?


So if I were going to write a blog, what would I be writing about healthcare?

The truth is, I cannot believe the healthcare struggle is going on. All my 64 years I have believed that taking care of all of us is what life is about. I cannot remember a time when I thought that some of us are more deserving than others. I don’t know how I came to that conclusion, but I assume it evolved from conversations with my parents, who at that time were staunch Republicans. I still have no reason to believe that some human beings are more deserving than others. In fact, I feel in my heart that all people are deserving, and equality is the only viewpoint that makes sense. At nine years old I can remember saying to my mother, “If we can’t learn to get along with everybody then we are doomed. What makes it so difficult for us to understand that? The survival of the human race depends on our ability to get along with each other.” It didn’t seem much of a reach to believe that war has to end, and that problem solving has to be the way to resolve differences.

As an adult I still have the same question. What make getting along so difficult? All the people of the world learning to get along still seems like a no brainer. However, I have learned some things. As a couples therapist I have seen every problem that causes nations to war with each other right there in my office. It is not rocket science, as they say. It is about trusting and being trustworthy. It is not that complicated. But for some of my clients it is a matter of life and death whether their spouse agrees with them. A misunderstanding means their spouse does not love them, and no attempt at diplomacy is believed. There is no possibility in these relationships for repair and re-engagement.

I feel the same way about the healthcare crisis. There is no moving forward without problem solving. I believe we are actually pretty good at solving problems. However, we all need to be working on the same problem. That problem can only be properly identified by looking into our own hearts and allowing the tragedy of our time to touch us. That is what happens with couples when they turn the corner from being self-righteous and self-serving to proactively caring for their spouse. Whether or not a person believes in universal healthcare is grounded in whether s/he believes that all human beings have equal value. When we start with this assumption we can solve the problem of healthcare .

When I search my heart it pains me to consider that there are human beings who die of hunger each day, human beings who die because they do not have proper shelter, human beings who die each year in natural disasters, human beings who kill others because they are driven by greed and power, human beings who die each day because they do not have access to medical treatment. As a child I would go to sleep at night praying that somehow God would make this world right, and somehow those whose minds were closed to human caring would somehow awaken to the sense of good in their own hearts. I had a relatively easy childhood: no hunger or poverty, loving parents and extended family, a stable middle-class up- bringing. I grew up believing that love was the most powerful force in the universe. I was told that by the adults in my life. Then, when I got to be an adult, I thought I had been duped. I soon came to understand that although it may be true that love is the most powerful force in the universe, very few people lived as if that were so. Loving others was not something I saw being done very proactively, with a few exceptions such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa. I knew I was not a Martin Luther King Jr. But nevertheless he proved to me that love does indeed “conquer all”. The problem today is that nobody believes it.

The driving force for healthcare in this country, and other countries, has to be love for each other. Only then can the discussions be had that create the reality. Do we believe that every human being has a right to food, shelter, and medical treatment? Do we believe this? If we do, then the right question is not whether we should do anything, or how much it costs. The right question is, “How are we, as caring people, going to make sure every person is taken care of? How are we going to do that?” It becomes a problem to be solved. The assumption is that we ARE going to do it, and that it is possible.

I have to ask myself, “ Do I believe that love is the most powerful force in the universe? That it is love that creates life and living things? That you and I are intricately bound to each other by love? That my love influences you even if I do not know you, and that when I separate myself from you I create gaps in my life, in my heart?” I know this to be true by my experience. Yet I know others have very different experiences that tell them life is not like this. I cannot grow your heart, I can only let you know mine and perhaps give you a new life experience that makes your heart change.

This is why universal healthcare is so vitally important. It gives all of us the opportunity to share our heartfelt caring and love with each other and then, at some point, humanity will take a step or a leap forward and we will not have to worry about our survival any more.

Terry Sterrenberg

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