Today's column is about a young Chester couple and their serverely disabled daughter. Her name is Mizani.
She is not expected to live long, but she has lived a damn site longer that any medical expert gave her a chance in hell of.
No doubt the story will raise concerns about the responsibility of two young people having children they can't afford and depending on taxpayers dollars to subsidize their questionable choices.
These are fair questions and yet I barely raise any of them in the column.
Two reasons: Space and taste.
But because here at Spencerblog, we have unlimited space and questionable taste -- such matters can be gotten in to.
First of all, I hope I made it clear in the column that I was enormously impressed with Steve and Shayla. There are nice people in a tough situation that they are handling with uncommon grace and fortitude.
As I mentioned in the column it was hospice nurse Helen Golden (more about her later) who wrote me about them and their heroic efforts on behalf of Mizani. That they don't see them as "heroic" but only as the kind of care any mother and father would give to any infant, makes their story all the more poignant, in my view.
Though I can't say I know the Steve and Shayla well, Helen has worked with them for several months.
She wrote me that she has been a nurse for 25 years and that she has never seen a couple more engaged, more willing to learn and to work to give their daughter the best life she can have, while she has it.
Mizani is considered terminally ill, which is why she qualified for Medicaid paid hospice. So critical is her condition that she could just as easily be hospitalized at much greater cost to the taxpayers. But Steve and Shayla have chosen to care for her themselves. As Shayla says, nobody can take better care of her baby than she can.
Part of the purpose of Helen writing me, was in the hopes of helping Steve get a job. He has been looking for some weeks, but an 6-year-old conviction on a gun possession charge works against him.
After meeting him, I believe Steve would enventually get work, with or without my or Helen's help. He is cheerful and unfailingly polite. He has what most people (and employers) would recognize as a winning personality. If he has the work ethic to match it, he'll do fine.
It is, of course, possible he fronting all these pleasant personality traits but I would bet not and Helen, who has known the family longer, would bet not as well.
As for the gun charge...
People who live in high crime neighborhoods are often caught in a sort of Catch-22. Our society and the law actively discourages even law-abiding citizens from owning guns on the theory (and experience) that no good can come from more and more people being armed.
But put yourself in a person like Steve's place.
You well know that other young men in your neighborhood are going around armed. Some are violent predators. Others are quick to take offense to slights and signs of disrespect. In such neighborhoods, people often get shot for very small potatoes. Yet, we criminalize the act of easily arming oneself for mere defensive purposes.
How do we know that someone is carrying a gun strictly for self defense? We don't. So the law (and cops) assume (not unreasonably) otherwise. But this makes criminals of people who had no intention of doing anything other than being able to defend themselves (and sometimes others).
Of course, some will point out that if someone wants to legally carry a gun all they have to do is apply for a carry permit. But they are not easy to come by. You have to be approved and checked out by the county sheriff's office. An application by a 20-year-old black male from Chester would not be cheerfully granted.
It was almost touching to learn that after Steve was arrested and informed that he needed a license to carry a gun, he actually went to apply for one. As if, with a felony on his record, he could get one.
This is a flaw in the law, one that works disproportionately against normally law-abiding citizens who live in high crime areas. But I doubt it will ever be addressed.
As for Shayla having another baby so soon, while still caring for Mizani, there will understandably be plenty of people who think she's being irresponsible, if not downright crazy.
Yet, despite this being something of a "surprise" to Shayla (which is to say, not a planned pregnancy) she doesn't appear to be on the verge of being overwhelmed. She has a very involved network of family members to help her out. And she is an obviously capable mother, even at her young age.
There are people who fall into being long-term burdens on the taxpayers and society, I'll be surprised if Steve and Shayla are two of them.
I talked to her this morning, and to her mother, Ramona, and Helen Golden who was at Shayla's apartment visiting Mizani.
All is well. They reported they liked the article are were proud to see Mizani on the front page of the Daily Times.
Steve was not there. He was out looking for work.
(Blogmeister's note: Since its inception, this blog has tolerated much in the way of lively and aggressive debate and sometimes even insulting comments. It won't in this case. Inappropriately nasty remarks about this family will be stricken.)