image Copyright 2016 Christine Johnson. All rights reserved.

After years of having our prescriptions filled at a locally-owned pharmacy, we decided to move our meds to the mail-order company that runs our prescription plan. Other expenses have kept creeping up, and this option finally became necessary as we struggled to find more things to trim in our budget without impacting us too much more. We really loved our local pharmacy, in spite of them going through no fewer than five different pharmacists in the last 3-4 years, and didn't want to make the move until it was financially necessary. (For those of you who don't have a mail-order plan, they entice you by giving you a lower price - usually 3 months for the price of 2 - that the local folks just can't meet.)

I started to move my meds over on January 26, when I logged in to pay my husband's bill for his prescription, which had been phoned in by our doctor at his appointment. His delivery arrived quickly, and I could sign in online and set up automatic payments as necessary. I called the number and asked them to help me switch my current prescription from the local pharmacy, and they said it should take about 9 or 10 days. No problem, I told them, because I have more than 10 days of meds left!

Well, the first sign of trouble was a week later, when I got a phone call and an email saying that my doctor's office had not responded to their messages yet, and that I needed to call and ask them to return the phone call. As much as I love my doctor, her nurse is flaky when it comes to getting messages to the doctor. So I called and left a message, asking for them to return the call and to please also let me know if I could get a hold-over prescription, since I had only a few pills left, and I didn't think I'd get my new ones in time.

Let me pause here to let you know that I take levothyroxine, a generic Synthroid, for my hypothyroidism. Left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause a host of physical problems, including liver damage and heart disease. It also makes your skin dry, your hair fall out, your nails crack, and your brain a bit … fuzzy. You tend to feel cold and tired, and every system in your body starts getting out of whack because your entire metabolism slows down. So when I was asking for extra pills to tide me over, it's not like I was asking for OxyContin or something like that. I just wanted to be healthy.

That was February 4 or 5. Finally, I checked back on the site a day or two later and saw that my meds would be shipping on February 10. Not cool! I think. I had just taken my last pill, so I called the doctor's office and left another message, asking if I can get a week's worth or so of pills. I didn't hear anything back, but that Thursday I find an old prescription bottle of a slightly higher dose with four pills left. I started taking those, thinking it's better than nothing, and waited. My pills were shipped on February 11 (ugh, another delay!) with an expected delivery of Monday, February 15. I figured this would be okay, then, since I would be taking the last pill on Monday.

Then we got a foot of snow, and the company that shipped my meds did not make any deliveries on Monday. At this point, I figured I could go one more day without, though I am feeling the effects of my meds being off at this point. On Tuesday, my tracker app showed that my meds are "On Vehicle for Delivery" and so I waited for the truck to show up. It never did. On Wednesday, I got the same message from the app, so I didn't try to contact my doctor for a refill since the pills were scheduled to be delivered by day's end. I was trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, thinking that the first day after they got out on the roads again, maybe things were still a little slippery for a delivery truck. But when they didn't deliver that day and I got the same message on Thursday (February 18 by now), I was feeling annoyed. How can the pills be on the truck and not delivered for three days??

After 8 PM, I look at the app again as I'm emailing back and forth with the delivery company's help desk via email. (To their credit, I tweeted my annoyance at their general account, and their help desk tweeted back within an hour, asking me to email them so they could try to help. By that night, I'd had three or four email exchanges already.) The app said my meds have been delivered, but I was out with my daughter at dance and choir, so I called my husband. He went outside and checked the front door, the garage door, and even the back deck.

No. Package.

At this point, I was really upset, and I emailed the delivery company again (yay, Bernice!), and she said (for the second time) that the local office will call me. For the second time, they did not. And apparently, my package was delivered somewhere else. I emailed AGAIN, and was told that the local office will call me in the morning to let me know what's happening.

The next morning, I called my doctor's office, nearly in tears, telling them that I think the delivery company has lost my meds, I am completely out (and have been, really, since two weeks prior), and I don't know how long it'll be to get it straightened out. I begged them to call me to let me know what I could do. A couple of hours later, local UPS called me (third time is the charm, I guess) to confirm that my package was delivered to the wrong house. The driver, she told me, will go back and try to retrieve my package and drop it off. She promised to call me later that day to confirm this information, and let me know when to expect the driver.

I never heard from her again, and I didn't hear from my doctor's office, either. However, after 8 PM, my husband heard a knock at the door (because I was out - again - running our other daughter to soccer) and texts me to say my meds were finally delivered. The driver didn't stay at the door to hand it to him or offer an apology for any of this.

I, on the other hand, nearly cried for joy just to have my medicine delivered. No, I take it back. I did cry when I got back home. I'd spent the better part of two weeks feeling as if I was invisible. It was like I didn't matter. I felt so … small.

So, why am I writing about this here? Because I learned a lesson from the whole debacle. I mean, aside from not trusting our local office of this delivery company with anything related to my shipping needs. What I learned was what it's like to have a real need that's being ignored by everyone around you.

Everywhere we go, there are people who are in need of some kind. Maybe they're short on their food budget and need help from the food pantry. Maybe their kids all went through a huge growth spurt and they can't get shoes and winter coats for them. Maybe they can't afford to go to the doctor or the psychologist to get the medical or mental help they need - because even with insurance, that stuff can still be expensive when you've got no cushion in the bank.

And sometimes, those people are asking for help, and they get ignored or judged for it. They are told they should try harder or do things this way (Try This Simple Trick!), and maybe they wouldn't be in such a mess.

Or maybe they're just standing at the intersection with a sign asking for help as car after car drives by, everyone averting their eyes.

I'm sure those people can really feel invisible. I'm no hero (and I'm not sharing this for a pat on the back), but I've tried to start helping those people when I see them. I try to bring things in for food drives, and I try to include things like toothbrushes and feminine supplies. I try to bring our worn (but good condition!) clothes to the clothes closet that offers free stuff to people who are too poor to shop at Goodwill. When I see someone begging on a corner, I might buy gift cards for groceries and get them a cup of coffee. If I can't do that, I try to find some money in my wallet to hand them. I've stopped worrying about what they'll do with the money because that's between them and God. What's between God and me, however, is whether or not I looked Christ in the eye and then walked past Him.

And there's one more thing, which I got from a dear friend of mine (who is a far better Christian than I am): I make eye contact and I shake the person's hand now. I make physical contact. She said that one homeless woman told her no one ever touches the homeless, as if people might catch something from them. They need physical contact, a sign of love — a sign that they have dignity.

And they do have dignity. God has given it to them, just as surely as He gave it to you and me.

What I learned is that we need to see people. We need to help them and let them know that they aren't invisible. Because they're not invisible to God.


© 2016 Christine Johnson