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This "Food for Thought" and ideas asks you to put yourself in some other person's shoes, by looking at some very difficult decisions, and considering how you would like the world to be. That is something definitely worth writing about.

How porous is the safety net that is supposed to keep Americans, and those in other countries, from falling into disaster? Consider Cynthia Ryan.

Cynthia loved children, and she did what she could to live the American dream. All she ever wanted to be was a mother, and she and her husband raised four children. They were proud and independent, they scrimped and worked hard to save money and never relied on the government or anyone for support. She rarely gave any thought to her own needs, and she often sacrificed so that her children would have. An active person, very child and community oriented, she hardly ever thought of her own material needs, but focused on her children, community service, working for her church, children's organizations, and other community organizations.

She often worked at low paying jobs to help the family afford their needs. When her husband's ill health forced him, a combat veteran suffering from the secondary ill effects of war, into retirement at age 60, she kept up her end and went to work, sometimes in low paying jobs - the best ones she could find - but more often doing home projects so that she could be near her husband. The projects wouldn't support them, but their Social Security payments together made it just possible to survive. After years of illness, he died.

She now had a house payment, utilities, an old car that took considerable upkeep, and all kinds of insurance that she couldn't afford. Social Security calculates benefit payments on the basis of income. Her husband had little income for the last 18 years, and hers was minimum wage and often just what little she could make from home projects. She could take Social Security benefit payments based on her husbands income or hers. His was slightly better.

His wasn't enough and their was very little equity in the house. She hoped to continue living independently, but soon realized that she couldn't afford to live by herself, so she moved in with her children, and ultimately lived with her unmarried daughter, which was difficult for both. At this point in her life, she had hoped to be able to visit her children regularly and do some of the projects that she loved doing. They couldn't afford a larger place, so she didn't have room to turn around, let alone do projects.

Her medical conditions worsened, but were manageable. Medicare paid for operations, and she paid for medicine. But after a couple of years, her conditions worsened and required several expensive medications. The total soon matched her Social Security benefit payment. Medicare wouldn't pay for prescriptions - the formula said she made too much money for her situation. All of her income went for prescriptions.

She was now totally dependent on others for food, housing, and everything else that it takes to live. Staying alive meant sacrificing the power to actually "live." And any further medical crisis that took money for prescriptions would probably be viewed as simply undoable.

Now consider Tom and Tabatha Crowley. Their life stories are very much like Tabatha Ryan's, except because of an economic downturn they both became unemployed at age 25, and because of the poor economy neither could find a job for months that would support them. Both lost their health insurance. They spent their meager savings, and were in danger of the utilities being turned off and losing their home. Tabatha developed a medical condition that could kill her. She needed surgery. But they have no money, no insurance, and nowhere to turn for help.

Life isn't just for the young. Young and old have about the same basic wants and needs. What you are able to do in life matters until the last day, and no one wants the life strangled out of them by being unable to afford to live, being unable to afford medical care, or accumulating medical debt that you can't pay. How would you have life end? Would you work away from home, or do lower paying projects so you could be home with your husband? Would you move in with your children? When you could no longer afford to purchase medicine or surgery, what would you do? Write a story about these difficult decisions, demonstrating how we need to make the world a better place to live.

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