I get asked often how I can stay in the crazy business of trying to change and shape public policy. How can I continue to slog it out day after day in a city that is wired not to change, with lawmakers who are doing everything they can to prevent change, in an environment that is more bitter and more partisan than it has ever been in recent memory? How do I do it?
I focus on the faces of the people who stand to gain or lose by the passage of a piece of legislation. For example, health care. Whenever I would get discouraged and really want to give up trying to get health-care passed, I would think about Isaiah. So when the final vote was taken on health care last night at 9 p.m., I thought about Isaiah. This one was for him.
You know, I've never met Isaiah, but I have been praying for him since the day he was born. He was born on my birthday in 2008. (So, of course, he is a wonderful child!) He was born with more health problems than anyone deserves to face in their lifetime, and has spent an inordinate amount of time in hospitals, being poked and prodded, with his doctors working innumerable hours to try and diagnose why he is sick. And I can't imagine how many millions of dollars this has cost.
At one point last October, those of us who have been following Isaiah on his Caring Bridge journal learned that his health insurance had been canceled. That was the day that this health-care reform fight became personal for me. It was no longer about the 32 million people who didn't have health insurance, it was about Isaiah and his family. It wasn't about the nameless, faceless many; it became about the known few.
So last night, I cried. I cried because I know that this bill will ensure that Isaiah and his family will not be excluded from health-care coverage because he just happened to be born sick. God is good. And I pray that Isaiah will live a long full life, so that God's will for him might be accomplished.
So in my mind, this one is for you, Isaiah. In my own way, I like to think that God gave me the opportunity to "give feet to my prayers" and do something to make this happen. So next year on our birthday and every birthday that we celebrate moving forward, I will think of you, and I will think of this moment, and I will pray that you are becoming all that God has created you to be.
Rev. Jennifer Kottler is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at Sojourners. A long-time advocate for justice, Jennifer has served in advocacy ministry for more than seven years through her work at Protestants for the Common Good (Chicago IL), the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, and the Chicago Jobs Council.