For a while there, it looked like the terrible plight of Payson residents with failing kidneys stood as a stark metaphor for everything that's wrong.
The dispiriting drama started four years ago when Payson Renal Care Group went out of business and shut down the only Rim Country dialysis center. They couldn't make any money on low Medicare reimbursements for the 11 local patients.
Sorry, guys. Medicine's a business. Sure like to help. We gotta go.
So the 11 local folks who needed the four-hour treatment to filter out the toxins a healthy kidney normally removes had to make the drive to Phoenix three times a week for their exhausting four-hour treatment.
All suffered. Some died quietly. We lost Don Holcombe, whose show on the radio helped make us a community. But mostly, we lost people we didn't know.
Sorry, guys. You're on your own. Sure like to help. We're all busy.
Well, not quite.
This is Payson, after all.
It's not a city, really. It's a community.
So the people like Judy Baker at the nonprofit Mogollon Health Alliance started moving on behalf of these members of our community.
After long and persistent effort, they found DaVita, a company that runs dialysis centers elsewhere. The Mogollon Health Alliance promised to raise $150,000 in five years to make a dialysis center in Payson pan out.
So the Alliance threw a black-tie fund-raiser. Crazy idea. Who's going to pay $400 per couple to help a bunch of strangers? I mean, these people are sick and faltering -- in the shadows of their lives. No power. No clout. Who's going to care?
The Alliance raised $35,000 the first year. And $50,000 the second year.
How strange to find so many people heartbroken on behalf of strangers.
So now, the dialysis center is set to open. Amazingly, 30 patients signed up. They'll have to operate the six treatment stations in shifts. DaVita has so many patients it can make money without the subsidy, which suddenly looked like a nice little windfall. Health care, after all, is a business.
Well. Another surprise. DaVita this week said the Alliance can keep the money, which will now help those suddenly not-strangers with other needs.
It turns out, we're short on strangers here in Payson. And maybe the tale of the dialysis center is instead a metaphor for all that's right here beneath the Rim.
For we have all come by our long and various paths to this place, to become members of the beloved community.
And maybe we squabble and complain and get too easily into one another's business.
But we also dress up in our best clothes and give a little more than we can afford out of love for people we do not know.
Because it's not a city, it's a community.
And so, let us be the first to say to DaVita -- prone, like the rest of us, to acts of needless generosity:
Welcome to the community.