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By Jana Hill
Mill Creek Beacon Editor 

The gaze


Last updated 4/30/2021 at 10:22am

She stood eye-to-eye with me, her two behind her nibbling leaves and stomping through twigs that cracked under their feet.

She held the gaze, and I stared back. Then came the stomp. Lifting one foot, thump. I could see it was for me. Eyes locked with mine, she stomped again, and again, and again.

We are both mothers. We both know that owning one’s place is essential.

My protector walked outside and stood as a presence. Far away enough that it did not imply harm, but did state a rule. He stared back. She turned and gathered her two, and they followed as young do. An unaware saunter of the innocent.

A deer in the backyard is a common sight, but this one was a reminder of where we are, and what we need. In this odd time with these strange problems, we all had to stand firm. To keep watch and protect our people.

We have tasked away daily to dodge a set of consequences we can’t accurately measure or predict on a personal level, while wondering what is ahead.

The virus has variants. Our people have medical profiles. Statistics are numbers, because data is data. But if one of yours gets sick, the chance of getting sick is 100%. Hope or fear are equitable in this uncertain time because immune systems do what they do – they may swoop in to protect yours before the vaccine even takes effect, or they may not.

Economies flex and change, and this culture depends on money. Resources require input and output from the economy, and it’s hard to say yet where all that is going. In the wild, the protective nature is clean, simple. The game is known and set, with simple rules: make sure everyone eats, protect the young.

The human side of life is more complex. Filled with monetary loss and the hoop-jumping around comebacks and plans for the road ahead. In this particular culture, as a health crisis stares down an entire population, the chances of poverty are more likely. According to, the average cost of a three-day hospital stay is approximately $30,000. And while hospitalization is “unlikely,” the need for it can barrel in unannounced, and unavoidable. COVID or not.

In the pandemic’s infancy, the state insurance commissioner issued a COVID-era edict that said care would be covered for the insured. The complicated loopholes retaining the power of insurance companies to make lots and lots of money was scattered shamelessly throughout that news release, after a statement that seemed strong and clear. The insurance commissioner is not to blame: the health care system is wasteful. Priced for quality, licensed to assure it, then soiled with complications that have little to do with health or safety.

I dive into that common narrative with one data point: the cost of two inhalers during a pandemic. No discounts were offered unless one was willing to hoop-jump and land at the feet of the pharmaceutical companies, to ask for a coupon. But that’s not advertised. It’s simply known by the pharmacist. Several years ago, I learned of “co-insurance” due to a large bill, for a procedure I called ahead to budget for. A $300 surprise was tacked on for a doctor to show up and insurance got out of covering it. I won’t bother with the rationalization rule. It lacks simplicity.

For the uninitiated, “co-insurance” is a friendly term for the insurance company handing the bill to you. Then there are deductibles, and the game of push back that either wears down the payer, or sends them to an attorney for a plan review. The sheer cost of paper-exchange, phone calls, and the pressure of businesses to provide a product that is not always required to serve its own purpose is reason for pause, in this time where more and more people wondered if their lost job and lost insurance meant the end of their economic life.

We could all have it easier than this. Simpler.

This spring arrived after a calendar-year that seemed to both drag out and whiz by at the same time, and now high school seniors are reflecting on gains and losses. The young have grown up, and will learn to own their own place, protect their own young. They do this as they fiercely view silver lining optimism, making the best of a difficult and unavoidable set of losses.

Seniors missed what we call normal. A bustling life full of to-do lists and togetherness. They missed traditions and everyday memories with their classmates. No pep talk can give that back. It is simply lost time. But what we all gain is a reminder of the power of commitment, the importance of duty, and gratitude for whatever life brings our way.

The answer for those issuing their own staredown, protecting their own space, is to foresee opportunities for repair. To view what really did help in this pandemic, and to emphasize it. Insist on the acknowledgement of its value.

On a small scale what helped was likely our inner circle, and on a larger scale it was the protectors: the scientists, health care professionals, and law enforcement. So many hands went into help and progress in this era.

The ripple from spring 2020 to spring 2021 is felt by all. The challenge for the young as they take on the world is to find ways to stop tolerating complications that get in the way of the simple need to own your place, and care for the young.


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