Here in the South, we are suffering from a sudden, severe condition I like to call ‘Gasolinopoenia.’  My wife and I first experienced it whilst driving our children to Greenville, SC, last weekend.  Low on gas, and woefully unfamiliar with current events, we started the drive only to find ourselves with 1/8th of a tank of gas in our GMC Yukon, and about 50 miles to go.  Imagine our surprise when we discovered that there was no gasoline to be had!

Gas station after gas station had all of their nozzles covered.  At one point, we stopped for a small snack and drinks for the kids.  ‘Well kids, go slow on the doughnuts,’ I said, ‘we might be living in this parking lot for a few days.’  There eyes grew large and they said, ‘are you joking, Papa?’
Thankfully, we had our own little Southern Baptist Hanukkah Moment at the ‘gas station with no gas.’  We pulled in with 1/8th of a tank, said our prayers, and I kid you not, we left with 1/4th of a tank.  So, a blessing was had.  Still, we had to find a gas station in the end.  Lo and behold, there was gasoline in a nearby town, though the lines were long.

It made me realize what a razor’s edge we’re all riding every day.  We tend to assume that a commodity like gasoline will always be available.  Not so!  Like any thing produced or provided by man, it has the potential to disappear from the market, if only temporarily.

I learned a few other lessons that day.  First, God cares about my problems.  He certainly guided me until I  had gasoline in my tank, and kept me from having a stranded, annoyed family hyped up on processed sugar.

Second, there’s a parallel between the gasoline situation and medicine.  It’s an odd kind of parallel, but here it is.  Gasoline stations charge money for every tank of gas, just as petroleum companies charge for what they drill and refine.  None of it goes for free.  I’m OK with that.  We need it.  And yet, despite the fact that it is a cash business, shortages still occur.

What an interesting reality!  Even in a business that requires payment, problems come up with availability.  But in medicine, we can’t imagine how shortages occur.  ‘Why don’t we have endless primary care doctors and specialists, unlimited medications, labs and diagnostic studies, infinite hospital beds, rehab facilities or nursing home beds?’

Well, let me think; probably because of federal price controls via Medicare and the oodles of other regulatory bodies that exist, and because many of those things go uncompensated!

What’s amazing is that health-care goes on as well as it does.  It’s testament to the dedication of hospitals, clinics, providers and every other aspect of the health-care system that it goes on, day and night, week after week, year to year, with constant under-payment, non-payment and frequent shortages.

We would do well to remember, as a nation, that things can go away.  I’m not talking about work-stoppages, just market realities.  Let’s face it, emergency departments, trauma centers, entire hospitals have closed!  They aren’t a guaranteed commodity.

But we need them, right?  We sure do.  We also need gasoline, and make no mistake about it.

I don’t envy the next administration.  No matter who wins, it’s going to be a tough time.  Let me tell you, if we keep running short on gasoline or health-care, no amount of doughnuts will make folks happy!

It might be a good time to pray for more miracles and more wisdom all around.

Be well, and may He hold you in the palm of his hand as you go about your day,

Edwin

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