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Adele Elliott: Death by poverty


Adele Elliott



These days it seems that our world is filled with pain. Psychic pain is intangible and private. Who can really understand the agonizing loss of someone dearly loved? American sons and daughters are suffering, bloodily, in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, we do not need to look across the globe to find hearts shattered in ways that will never heal. (Where is Kaila Morris?) 


Some pain is actually fixable. Migraines, hypertension, issues of the lungs and of our beating heart (if not our metaphoric one) all can be mended with the right care. 


We hear so much about government-sponsored health programs. That idea makes usually calm folks livid with rage. Forty-seven million Americans are uninsured. Our neighbors are dying, slowly, from their inability to afford cures that are available on the shelves of any pharmacist. 


The impression is that we are a nation of the selfish and self-obsessed. Every other industrialized country has a workable health-care plan for their citizens. Where is America''s much-touted generosity? Why are we so sympathetic to the misery of those abroad and blind to the same agony at home? 


In The United States, we think of ourselves as egalitarian but operate as if this were an archaic class system. The wealthy have the privilege of health, while so many others cannot afford basic services for survival. Pity the peasant. 


All over Columbus, decals on the doors of businesses proudly proclaim, "Christians at work." Every place you go the words, "Have a blessed day," or, "Well, bless your heart," are heard. Most of the time, these expressions are hollow and meaningless. 


Jesus said, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." That''s quite a tall order, especially since "neighbor" is allegory for "everyone." 


Most of us are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. He stopped to aid an injured man, who had been robbed, beaten and left for dead. That this man was a stranger to him did not matter. 


This style of compassion thrives at the Good Samaritan Medical Clinic, 522 College Street, in Columbus. There, our neighbors are helping heal the uninsured in our area. The requirements are few. Applicants must be residents of Lowndes County, employed, and without health insurance. That''s all. A bit of screening, with some documentation, is required before seeing a doctor. (Call 662-244-0044 for more information.) 


The clinic is run by Kathy Tentoni, a nurse with soft azure eyes the color of a Gulf Coast sky, and an accent so Southern that you know it rises from a place deep inside her. Anyone meeting her begins to feel suddenly better. 


"We are funded by donations and grants," she says. "The women of the First United Methodist Church gave money for mammograms. The same church rents us this building for $1 a year. But, this is truly a community project. All of our furniture was donated. The doctors, office staff, all are volunteers." The clinic, a registered non-profit, welcomes contributions of time, money, or expertise.  


Although the Good Samaritan Clinic is open Monday through Friday, Thursday evenings are the most hectic. Then, patients with appointments pack the waiting room. It is immaculate and comfortable; even the plants are healthy. Visits with the doctors are free, as are prescriptions and lab work. Some cases are referred to physicians in the community, who also offer their time at no charge. 


In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus says, "Go and do likewise." Kathy Tentoni and her volunteer doctors, nurses, social workers and staff of about 45 have embraced that message. They are working, unselfishly, to save local lives and soften the pain that can be healed.


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.


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