Before we moved to Boston, Ellie and Ava heard there might be “snow days.” Actual days off of school because of too much snow! They were very much in favor of this idea. A few weeks ago, they got their wish, when so much of the eastern part of the country saw crazy low temperatures and inches and inches of white stuff from the sky. Around here it was one of the biggest snowstorms on record.

Frankly the girls reached a point where they’d had enough. After two days off, they were ready to back to school.

It’s true that the airport had to shut down for a while along with the schools, and I’m sure people who could remain safely at home did. But city crews were out keeping the streets plowed and life went on. The streets were functioning and public services operating. South Shore Mental Health runs a 24-hour service, and everything kept going for the sake of the people we service.

This is public service at its best: people going out of their way to continue services.

In a climate where a recent policy change allows some states to mandate a work requirement for Medicaid recipients, my own lens on public service came into sharper focus. Just keep on going. Disregard the elements. Someone who needs care has got to be able to get it. You can’t not be available if someone is in crisis, whether a physical or mental emergency. You can’t close your services. Yet we hear of policy decisions that amount to closing down opportunities for care when we say we are willing to disqualify government-funded services if you are not working. That’s an astonishing thought.

We know work is important to health and well-being. We also know people face difficult circumstances sometimes. With such a policy, we stand at the top of a hill that has been dumped on with days of icy snow, a slippery slope of judging who is deserving or not deserving. How easy it would be to lose our footing and go tumbling down like an out-of-control sled.

Choosing who is deserving or not deserving of care is an idea anathema to those of us who work in health care and provide services, regardless if the weather has been clear and sunny or a three-day blizzard. We do not make judgments. If a need presents, we are there to meet it.

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