I have never been to Baltimore, Maryland. I have never seen Elijah Cummings in person. I have never met his family and I cannot imagine the gravity of mourning his friends and colleagues are facing. However, when I saw him on my television presiding over a very tense committee of Democrats and Republicans once, twice, or perhaps three times, I stopped in my tracks.
Here was a man that reminded me of the power that under-girds an African-American father’s love for his children. Cummings had children that did not always look like him. His children did not originate from the same social strata.
I think it helps that I had not seen him as a student of political science, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, or a lawyer primed from the foundry of Howard University.
I’m elated that I did not know he wrote a newspaper column.
The knowledge of his past accomplishments might have stoked arrogance in me: the same arrogance that arises when a seedling of a pupil tries to use his knowledge as a false substitute for life experience and surety.
A week ago Congressman Cummings wrote about how rising drug costs make it nearly impossible to receive life-saving treatment when you’re an elderly American.
Among the bills Cummings supported was H.R 448, the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act.
This bill if passed could cut the amount of money I’d pay out of pocket if I need a drug I cannot afford. (448) is a concept law that would allow negotiation and grants to help low-income people like me have the ability to get treatment.
I recently became eligible for Medicare given my status as an adult with Cerebral Palsy. I only recently learned about how expensive health insurance becomes once you age out of the service cap that exists mainly for youth and children.
When I saw the Honorable Mr. Cummings preside, I remembered singing the hymn: “Elijah Rock, from my choral days in school. And I got happy because I knew that Mr. Cummings was stating ideas that I had been thinking.
It was beautiful to see him speak clearly and precisely about his reservations about the nefariousness of the Trump Administration. I can only gather that he had the pride and discretion of most people I know that serve others during a major illness.
Elijah Cummings lived to be 68 years old. Sickness seemed not to deter his drive to serve his fellow Americans. I have known many elderly people living with sickness who bravely attuned themselves to the needs of others. Psalms 90 speaks of the futility of human plans, how our days are ordered. For 70 years lived is a graceful victory.
He made it, sans two of them. If anything Psalms 90 is painful reminder that we should not spend our lives without God’s mercy. O, that we know that we don’t have to be doing whatever it is we are doing!
I find that it is often challenging to live with Cerebral Palsy and serve the patrons of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library System. But Elijah Cummings as an orator and human being reminded me that service to others has less to do with how you feel about them, and more about the will to search for the good in troubling situations.
I learned from the small minutes and moments in between strife and contention that television only tells the story we fantasize about… and not the story begging to be discovered underneath.
I can only hope that as I continue gaining ground in public service that I number my days and people see my professional life going forward as an extension to focus on what I have in common with others versus the ocean of disparate details that drive me ever closer to enmity.
Thank you for your public service, Mr. Cummings. You made me proud to be a Black American man. I would hope that I can use some part of your example to increase dialogue between people fighting for survival in our complex and passionate nation.