When my daughter started throwing up blood clots, I wasn’t thinking about taxes. When the doctor told us, “Your daughter has leukemia,” I wasn’t thinking about taxes. Survival was my only concern.
Her cancer was aggressive, so aggressive that the chemo killed it quickly—too quickly. It overwhelmed her kidneys with waste. The team countered it with dialysis and extra fluids. Her kidneys recovered, but the vicious dance went on. Extra fluid overwhelmed her lungs, which meant intubation and a ventilator to help her breathe. She recovered, but that meant more chemo, which led to mouth sores, infection, even more fluid on her lungs, and another trip to the PICU.
Our small but mighty church provided for our immediate needs. They prayed for us and sobbed on our behalf, something we could not do in front of our already scared, sick child. They fed my husband and me—usually twice a day. They took turns watching our other kids, taking them on whirlwind adventures and more Chick-fil-A lunches than I can count. When my parents were able, they drove thirteen hours to take the kids back to their farm.
I didn’t think about feeding my family, watching my kids, cleaning my house, or (because my husband had so much sick leave) work and money. And I praise God that during our initial forty-day stay, all of our needs and more were met.
“You’ll never see a bill.”
After forty days, dialysis, three PICU stays, two weeks on a ventilator, and more body fluids than I ever want to experience again, we received a letter from our insurance company: “Upon review, we have deemed your recent hospital visit medically necessary.”
“Medically necessary” does not mean “completely covered.” I am eternally grateful to the social workers at Arkansas Children’s Hospital who put the paperwork for TEFRA, a Medicaid extension for kids with disabilities or long-term illnesses, in front of our weary faces and made sure that we filled it out before the deadline.
For a small premium each month, someone else goes to bat with my insurance and makes sure the bills get paid. A financial counselor asked me who our insurance was through. When I told her she nodded and said, “You’ll never see a bill.”
So far, we haven’t. Instead of side hustling to pay medical bills, I held my sobbing daughter when she discovered the giant bald spot on the back of her head. Instead of worrying about money, I talked (and am still talking) her younger sister through anxiety about being separated from us for so long. Instead of getting a job, I stayed home so my four-year-old son would have ordinary days like before so that he knows our scary, uncertain season is over, even though we still go to the hospital regularly for chemo.
And I wouldn’t be able to care for my family this way without your tax dollars, the ones that pay for Medicaid.
The idea that “taxes are the confiscation of wealth” is popular in certain Christian circles. That’s always irked me. In Matthew 17, Jesus works a miracle, one that’s easy to skip over: he sends Peter to get a coin out of some fish guts to pay their temple tax. It’s not flashy—no one is healed, and water doesn’t turn into wine. But Jesus obeys the law and pays his part.
When looking for a metaphor for taxes, I kept coming back to Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation, holding a gift bag and gleefully explaining “SWAG” to the camera: Stuff We All Get.
That’s taxes, friend. SWAPFAHATWWNI (Stuff We All Pay For And Have Access To When We Need It) is more accurate, but it’s far more cumbersome to say.
This shared SWAG runs rampant through my days, even beyond TEFRA: I drive my kids on public roads to play at city playgrounds. We spend hours perusing at our local library, checking out whole bags of books for no charge (or mostly no charge; we do pay extra taxes called “fines” because Mama isn’t the best with due dates).
Taxes let me (and you) do my small share to care for my neighbor. I’m happy to contribute to food stamps, affordable housing, Medicaid, jobs programs, public schools—because today it’s my neighbor, and tomorrow it might be me. My neighbor’s education matters.
There are programs at the local, state, and federal level that meet needs I don’t even know exist, doing good that I can’t imagine or do myself. This doesn’t excuse me from being the hands and feet of Jesus—we are all called to serve people and proclaim his name. But when I watch nurses hang chemo meds and social work guide worried parents through the same TEFRA paperwork we filled out, I am thankful for the deduction at the top of my paycheck.