On the screen and in television I've acted in mostly comedic roles -- slices of life in the good old days. But recently I played a different kind of comedic role in an independent film that light-heartedly tells a love story of a woman caught in between the cracks of healthcare. The film is called Stealing Roses and my character, Rose, is diagnosed with cancer. She and her husband, Walter (wonderfully played by actor John Heard), can't afford health insurance, are too young for Medicare and not "poor enough" for Medicaid. With his back up against a wall, Walter plans a bank robbery to save Rose while their son, a cop, tries to stop him.
The storyline in Stealing Roses is a timely topic told in a sensitive way. But in this day and age -- why do we even have to tell this story? Well, we have to tell it because, sadly, it exists every day in our country. Haven't we all been affected by friends or family members that have hardship stories regarding the lack of health insurance and a terrible illness? I know I have. I've been lost in between the cracks of health care myself. Even actors in Hollywood aren't immune. And as many of you know... it's a scary place to be. And if you don't know, then you're lucky, but that won't make you immune in your or your family's future.
We need to look at this issue and ask ourselves how we can let our friends, family members and neighbors be placed in these perilous positions. We need to call out for compassion and find it within ourselves.
You fall into these cracks when you are most vulnerable and sick -- a lack of resources and confusion abounds within the labyrinth of health insurance and government bureaucracy. Thank God a thoughtful Medicare worker talked me through a confusing process while I was having my own health care crisis. But millions aren't that lucky in our nation. It's frustrating, confusing and hopeless for so many. And it's even crueler when you are older -- when it should be easier.
So for now, films like Stealing Roses need to be made in America since we, as a nation, still need to find compassion for each other. Where is your compassion? Ask yourself how you would feel if your mother, father or best friend didn't have medical care. Does it make you want to vote differently either in the election or with your dollars? Does it make you want to write letters to your congress representatives, march in a rally or volunteer to help those in need? I hope so.
As many wise people have said similarly over the centuries on taking care of our most vulnerable, my favorite quote from Pearl S. Buck says, "the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members." Good call Pearl.
Actress Cindy Williams played Shirley Feeney in ABC's long-running hit series Laverne & Shirley. She was also in George Lucas's classic film American Graffiti. She recently played the lead role of Rose in "Stealing Roses." www.StealingRoses.com