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A Saturday Morning Civil Rights Lesson

I have many clergy friends who take Mondays off. I’ve always tried to reserve Saturdays as my Sabbath. The main reason is that Bill works Monday-Friday and I, of course, have worked every Sunday for the 35½ years we have been together.

I knew this past Saturday would be difficult. A nurse visited on Friday afternoon to do hospice intake for Bill. They told me they would begin to deliver some of the equipment he would need, like an IV pump and pole, on Saturday. Sure enough, at 7:00 the next morning, the doorbell rang. I let the woman in and helped her carry the boxes into the dining room. She wanted Bill to sign for the equipment, but I said that he was still asleep and that I would sign for them. She asked what my relationship is to the patient, and I explained that I am his spouse. She then asked if I have a copy of my power of attorney.

Now, I know that all of this has left me hurting, grieving, and angry, so I’ve worked very hard not to take it out on innocent people. This middle-aged, African-American woman should be very grateful that I had some level of self-awareness that early on a Saturday morning.

I asked her if I would have needed a power of attorney if I was Bill’s wife. She said no, but that her boss required it in situations like this. Without raising my voice, though probably using what my daughters call my “preacher’s voice,” I said to her, “Hand me that paper. I’m going to sign this, and you are going to go back and tell your boss that, despite what rednecks in Georgia might think, we still are part of the United States. His policy is not only illegal, but it is abusive. If he doesn’t like it, I’ll happily sue him and his company to prove it. Same-gender marriage has been the law of the land for more than a year now, and I have fought my entire adult life to get here. So I am not about to be insulted in my own home. My signature is all you need.”

This poor woman just nodded her head. She wasn’t quite prepared for a civil rights lesson so early on a Saturday morning. I was as polite as I could be, but I wasn’t about to take one step backward. I also wasn’t about to wake Bill up to sign for a cheap, aluminum IV pole.

Anger doesn’t need to be destructive, but I believe we need to let it give us the courage and assertiveness to speak our truth, not so much for our own sake, but for all the other people who are powerless to speak for themselves.

Blessings,

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Rev. Michael Piazza

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