John Ashcroft was inducted into the Famous Missourians Hall of Fame at the state capitol this week. The ceremony should also have included an honorary member - Sharon Curtiss-Rivera.
It's a long story but last August, the Missouri Department of Social Services mailed 339,000 letters to Medicaid recipients in Missouri to explain changes in the health care program. Problem was, the letter listed Ms. Curtiss-Rivera's phone number in Montana instead of the correct number in Missouri.
In August alone, the Montana woman received over 750 phone calls from Missouri residents wanting information on the Medicaid changes. Before state officials in Missouri could get the correct phone number to the recipients, Curtiss-Rivera had received over 1,000 calls. In fact, a few calls are still coming her way.
She must be an angel. Instead of hanging up on the callers as many of us would do, Curtiss-Rivera answered each one and explained the mistake. In many cases, she took the time to listen to the callers' medical issues and said she tried to be "considerate and respectful and decent."
Now imagine for just one moment. You're receiving 750 incorrect phone calls in one month and your goal is to be considerate and respectful and decent. The Montana woman's phone bill shows she spent at least 13 hours on the phone listening patiently and providing the correct information.
So Missouri Social Service officials asked Curtiss-Rivera to submit her phone bill for reimbursement. This week she reluctantly forwarded her phone bill for $233. Missouri officials have sent her a check for that amount.
In sending the check, Social Services said they were sorry for the inconvenience to Ms. Curtiss-Rivera and to the thousand or so residents who called the wrong number.
Here's what I think. I think our grand state missed a golden opportunity to show some Midwestern hospitality. Instead of sending this kind woman a paltry $233, we should have made her the queen of the state. She should have been treated to some Missouri hospitality and entertained at our expense. We had a chance to show our appreciation for her abundant kindness and instead, we cut a quick check for $233 and say we're sorry.
We owe Sharon Curtiss-Rivera a whole lot more than $233. Anyone with the patience, the consideration, the respect and the decency to act as she did deserves more than just a cold check in the mail. She deserves our admiration and our sincere gratitude. In this day and age, it would not be unexpected for this Montana woman to file a lawsuit against the state and seek substantial damages. Apparently that is not her nature.
As a result, Sharon Curtiss-Rivera should receive something more than $233. A thank you in a newspaper column should just be the beginning.