By: Lila Rosenbloom
As we inch past the halfway mark of AVODAH, I find myself continuously asking one question – Am I doing the best I can to work towards justice every day? Do I do the best I can to meet people’s needs every day, without fail?
My job as a Medical Clinic Coordinator at Bread for the City can be described as many things, but “easy” is not one of them. Each day, there are new emergencies, new crises, and new people trying to become new patients. At the medical clinic, due to restrictions on time, money, space and staff (as well as a commitment to existing patients), we can only offer a few new patient appointments each day. In fact, out of the 50-60 patients we see each day, usually only 2-4 are new patients. In order to qualify as a patient at Bread for the City’s free medical clinic, a person must live in DC, have public insurance or no insurance, and have no other doctor, unless they want to transfer their care to us.
I could recite the questions determining a person’s eligibility in my sleep. When I answer the phone, I could easily choose to hang up on someone with a thick accent. I could make careless mistakes on referrals, causing patients to be turned away when they go to hospitals to see specialists. Sometimes, it would be is easier to be less than helpful. Sometimes, it is easy to let my job become a routine. And that is why it is hard.
If I am not attempting to assist each and every person I encounter, then I am not treating each person equally, and I am not “administering justice.” If I do not do grant another person the dignity of being treated equally, then I am not really doing my job. And the way I see it, even if I don’t work in a legal clinic, my job is to administer justice. My job is to fight battles. My job is not to hold the power of my side of the desk over a patient. Rather, my job is to work to even out the playing field, to ignore historical power dynamics and to create new relationships. After all, Bread for the City’s mission is: “to provide vulnerable residents of Washington, DC, with comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services, in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. We recognize that all people share a common humanity, and that all are responsible to themselves and to society as a whole. Therefore, we promote the mutual collaboration of clients, volunteers, donors, staff, and other community partners to alleviate the suffering caused by poverty and to rectify the conditions that perpetuate it.”
This is the question that haunts me – Am I doing the best I can? Am I trying my best to provide equally, to all? Do I take the extra time to navigate an exceptionally complicated insurance situation? Do I fight to get our patients in to see specialists in a timely manner? Do I really listen to the stories of people trying to become new patients? Do I take the time to conference call in an interpreter?
On some days, I can answer yes. And on some days, the answer is no. These are the dangerous days, the days that my job begins to feel routine and I lose sight of our mission.
At the end of the day, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a dentist, and I’m not a social worker. But I am a face (sometimes the first face) a person sees when they enter the clinic. For the moments that we interact, it’s up to me to administer justice. These are my challenges and these are my joys. I meet each day with a renewed sense of obligation. And while the question, “Am I doing my best?” plagues me, I believe that the administration of justice is in my (and our) hands, and so each day I try to choose justice.
Lila Rosenbloom is from Potomac, MD and attended University of Maryland. As a DC AVODAH Corps member, she is a Medical Clinic Coordinator at Bread for the City, which provides vulnerable residents of Washington, DC with comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services, in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.