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Letter: Paid leave makes healthier communities

Letter: Paid leave makes healthier communities

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Jesus’ healing miracles are a genre unto themselves. He saw to all who were sick — regardless of preexisting conditions or insurance carrier. One aspect of biblical healing struck me recently: there is often a community aspect to it. Take two examples from the gospels.

In John chapter 5 Jesus heals a man who has been ill for 38 years. The man sat at the pool of Bethzatha attempting to take advantage of the healing waters. Yet he was unable to get in because he had no one to carry him into the water. When he tried to make his way alone, others broke in front and blocked his way. Jesus healed him and gave the instruction, “Stand up, take up your mat and walk.” (Jn 5:8)

In Matthew chapter 2, Jesus was preaching in a crowded house in Capernaum, and some people brought a man who was also paralyzed. Not being able to carry him through the crowd to Jesus, they lowered the man down through a hole in the roof. Jesus healed him and again said, “Stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” (Mt 2: 11)

In the first example, the community prevented the one who was sick from that which he thought would heal him. Standing in his way, they blocked his access to the care he needed. In contrast, the community worked together to help the man in Matthew find healing. I wonder which approach — assistance or obstruction — best describes the how our own communities respond to access to health care. Are our legislators working together to prioritize the health of all people, or are they standing in the way of healthy communities?

One way that citizens of North Carolina can support one another in healing and wholeness is to advocate for paid sick leave and paid family leave. The NC Families Care coalition reports that over one million North Carolinians do not have access to paid sick leave. This forces individuals who are ill to go to work while sick and risks the spread of illness to the larger community. As positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Catawba County, the realities of individuals going to work while sick is an increasingly disturbing reality. Staying home to recover from illness is a public heath matter and something that has an impact on the larger community.

Access to paid sick leave is also a community justice matter as women and people of color are less likely to have access to paid sick leave. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, it is uncommon for low-income jobs to provide paid sick leave. In our state, more than half of full-time employees who earn less than $20,000 per year enjoy paid leave. These positions are more often held by women and people of color, making the issue of access to paid leave a harsh reality for North Carolina’s minority populations.

Paid sick leave is a community concern. Rather than obstructing employees’ access to time for healing, we must work together to pass legislation that protects the rights and health of our state’s employees. We also must work together to support businesses and organizations whose employees need paid leave.

Employers need a healthy workforce in order to thrive. Parents need paid leave to care for sick children. Children need paid leave to care for aging, ill parents. Like the community at Capernaum who brought their friend to Jesus, may we all work together to provide access to healing for our families and neighbors. And, like those who were healed by Jesus, may we also have the ability to walk forward together toward healthy community.

Christy Lohr Sapp

Pastor, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Hickory

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