have you ever made a really big mistake that costs more money than you can afford? we did last month. it was stupid. innocent, but stupid. it cost us $700 that we just did not have. it put us in debt and broke our hearts. it didn't have to happen. we could have avoided it. but we really went on the best information we thought we had.
public health care in canada is a lovely thing. not as wonderful on the rural, east coast as it is in major urban centres of ontario, but i am still so grateful i don't have to keep a job i hate to keep us insured. supplemental insurance in canada is a wise thing to add - prescriptions, optical & dental can be had as a small extra, private plan. we finally got to the place last spring where we could afford this and started the plan. we had a six month waiting period for dental and optical coverage. we figured that we had waited 2 years, we could wait six more months. and here the big, dumb, innocent, yet dumb mistake happened. we thought the waiting period was over in october and i scheduled the whole family for full optical and dental exams. the co-pays coming all together were a lot, but we finally had coverage - we were going to use it.
actually though the six month waiting period didn't really start until november. we never checked. either of us. we just went on the assumption that we had coverage. $700 later every claim was rejected and our hearts were broken. do you know how far we can stretch $700?? that's a huge amount in our economy. i was angry, so angry with myself and liam that we hadn't checked. it was a stupid mistake and we were heartbroken.
liam called our insurance guy and asked him to plead our case. he half-heartedly tried and said "nothing i can do". i figured that $700 is over a weeks pay if i was to go out and find work, so maybe i could put some effort into being the persistent widow and find out if our insurance company had one just judge among the many. i prayed that i could stay calm and level headed. that i would own my mistake and plead my case as honestly and heartily as i was able.
on friday i got the standard call center response "i'm sorry, we can't waive the waiting period, it's non-negotiable" - i explained to her that i realized that she probably didn't have the power to make a decision like this, but that i knew that there would be someone in her company who might be able to. i thanked her for her time and asked to speak to her supervisor. i received the standard "no one is here who can help you, but i can take your information and they will contact you" line. she was professional, but clearly i was asking far too much. she assured me someone would call me monday to discuss this. i figured this was only the first link in a very long chain i would have to endure to earn the right to be heard by the right person.
at 9:01 this morning the phone rang. i said to liam jokingly "yah, that's the insurance company calling" and you know what? it was. i got on the phone expecting to plead my case again and said "we have made a huge mistake. we feel horrible and we aren't trying to get one over on anyone..." she cut me off. i expected the worst when she said "i was just calling to tell you that the company has decided to pay all of your claims." i'm still tearing up 4 1/2 hours later as i type this. i was shocked. i am not sure, but i don't know if i have ever felt as heard as i felt at that moment. i truly felt heard by god and heard by this company and that mercy and justice had moved to meet our need.
we try so hard to live simply and generously and within our means. this $700 means we are not in debt and are able to celebrate the holidays without that horrible pressure on us. i am so grateful. i wept before god for a good 20 minutes. i am moved again to tears. justice is a beautiful thing.
in one of our classes our professor talked about the difference between the "right answer" and the "beautiful answer" - it would have been right for the insurance company to make us pay for our mistake, but it wouldn't have been beautiful. they clearly could afford to eat this more than we could. it was so kind of them to realize that and step in for us. it is the beautiful answer and i am so grateful.
i have battled insurance companies since my mother's death back in the 80's. i have never had an outcome like this. i couldn't have been more surprised and shocked by this.
i wrote a poem the other night at the sacred writing workshop. he taught us about repetition in poetry and asked us to use a phrase that had been sticking in our heads to engage creatively in this process. still pondering the theme of bread i had been stuck on the line "what father gives a stone when his child asks for bread?" i wrote about six lines feeling the joy of god's provision and then it shifted, right there, in the middle of the room with 20 other people, and i thought about all of the stones i had been given along the way. anger boiled in me. instead of the joy of receiving bread i began to think of all of the rocks. it stuck in my throat and i couldn't write another word. we were then asked to read our psalms out loud. i panicked and realized how much of myself i was going to show to this room of virtual strangers. there was nothing else i could do.
what father gives a stone when his child asks for bread?
i was one of the last to go and the whole time i kept saying to myself, "it's okay, some psalms are angry and full of lament - maybe someone else will connect with this emotion instead of sugary, sweetness" - it was enough to get me to open my mouth. it was over quickly and i tried not to think about it anymore. i figured i could make more of it than anyone else would. afterward a woman i had never met before came up to me and told me that she could tell there was lots of emotion behind my words and that she appreciated them.
today is a day for bread. i am grateful. it is well with my soul.