When I practiced medicine, I came smack up against poverty all the time. Whenever we had a child die in a house fire, the real cause wasn’t a faulty space heater, it was poverty: the people were too poor to heat their whole house safely.
I remember helping one little girl undress for a physical exam, and her underwear was not only dirty, it had more holes than cloth. That was poverty, and it embarrassed her. It ate at her soul – and at mine. I saw a group of three siblings whose mother abandoned them to the State because she was too poor to feed them. What must that have done to all four of them? This was part of my daily work.
For most people, a baby is a dream come true. For some, a baby is just an annoying consequence of some hook-up. But both babies are innocents with a long future ahead of them.
One mark of a civilization is how well the strong help the weak, and poor children are the weakest part of our society. They are mute politically. They have no ability to help themselves, and each day they go without adequate stimulation and nutrition, their brains fall farther behind in their hardwiring, thus insuring they will be less productive adults.
I must have handled at least ten thousand newborns in my work. I would often look into their eyes and wonder what was locked inside that little head. Did the little redheaded baby girl have a cure for cancer in her head? Was the Hispanic baby another Mozart? Was the African American baby a Ledonardo da Vinci for this century? Or was another baby just going to grow up and knock over convenience stores to feed his or her drug habit?
If we’re lucky, we get out of kids what we put into them. If we invest heavily in children, they grow up to become taxpayers. One might become the doctor who saves your life, or the firefighter that saves your grandchild. Put next to nothing into them, they become tax users, whether in the welfare system, or worse, the criminal justice system.
We have to prioritize our resources, they are not infinite. But let’s make sure we get the best out of our babies – not just for their sakes – but for our own.