One of our wonderful CFUM youngsters serving as Head Nurse for the day at student led Unity Point Health Clinic

Heading toward Trouble or Hope?

I am not certain if it was was a dream, nightmare, seminar or sermon, but a couple of weeks ago I heard a fiery speech from a mature lady saying if we keep going as we are, civil society will soon collapse.

I am not ready to say “Yes, and Amen” to that, and I am hoping it was indeed a nightmare, but I agree, we are in real trouble. 

I am going to be as positive as I can be and end on a hopeful note, but whether it is due to nihilists and anarchists among us, intentionally trying to pursue chaos, or a growing lack of competence in our workforce, the result will be the same, destructive beyond measure, if we don’t make corrections and adjustments immediately. 

I’d like to share a few personal examples of recent incompetence and lack of customer service I’ve faced which prompted me to share these thoughts.

When I applied for Medicare in October, a Medicare worker saw that my private former insurance was terminated and thus wrongly assumed this meant my private insurance was primary and Medicare was 2nd. 

This left me without insulin pump supplies for 2 months and put my life in danger. 

The next person I talked to, to correct the mistake, took my Medicare number down, but was inattentive, distracted, perhaps watching videos at his desk, or exhausted from working a 2nd job, or? but he wrote my Medicare number down incorrectly and the supplies never came. The 3rd person I called took my correct number down, seemed attentive, but the order was never made and I was borrowing supplies from friends to stay alive. Meanwhile, large insurance companies shielding themselves with uncaring not fluent in English customer service workers with phrases like, “I understand”, when they clearly did not. When I finally did find a competent understanding worker after contacting my Senator and making an official complaint to Medicare, within two weeks all was restored and a written apology was sent to me. But, this was 2 months and specifically 10 harrowing days of fighting for my life, due to incompetent distracted irresponsible workers, which really is a form of malice. 

I won’t even mention the customer service workers who wanted to send a verification code to my lost phone or another who insisted on sending the code to a phone which had been accidentally flushed down the toilet 3 years ago by a disabled loved one. 

You may not be trying to kill me, but your actions are indeed killing me. 

What are the factors leading to this increasing, in my experience, rampant incompetence and horrendous customer service? 

I listed a few; fatigue, one young lady yawned throughout my call about an important medication. Too many jobs and too many hours, distraction, an inability to listen, a lack of communicative and reading skills, according to this article from NPR, it is a shortage of workers and a lack of training and empowerment and pay to workers.

I do believe this can be turned around. Starting today. Encouragement to get more rest, listen more intently, avoid distractions, be present with whomever you are talking to in the moment, do one thing at a time rather than multi-tasking, sharpen your reading skills, focus on training, pay workers well so they don’t have to work 2 of 3 jobs. I feel like I am preaching to myself. 

Hope For The Future

I work at Children and Family Urban Movement and our mission is to create a community that supports the potential of children, youth, and families through educational success, healthy living, and community engagement.

We hope to collaborate with our partners, Moulton Elementary, JA Biztown, Trinity Las Americas, Des Moines Public Schools, other north side elementary schools in our future, corporations, community groups, and faith communities to prepare competent, literate, resilient, productive students and professionals and compassionate community members.

Student led Weitz Construction Company building a park bench 

I saw a beautiful picture of this in action as we collaborated with Moulton Elementary 5th Grade Students, DMPS JA (Junior Achievement) Biztown and Des Moines area businesses, to set up student led companies for the day. 

Students ran a Unity Point Medical Clinic, a Wells Fargo Bank, Weitz Construction Company, even building a park bench, Kum & Go, the Patty and Jim Cownie Foundation and more. 

Jacob Nastruz and I assisted the students in running the wholesale Business Solver Distribution Center 

The students creatively used tablet computers to utilize business checking accounts, debit cards, invested their reserves in companies like Nike and Tesla, learned customer service and people skills, met deadlines, selected a Mayor, handed out citizenship awards, turned in their hours, carried out payroll and received pay checks and more. 

It was an outstanding opportunity for our collective kids and as the day went on, we learned of a couple 5th graders, who could not yet read, and one without a home. We are addressing both situations. 

There are many students with similar needs. You can get involved by coming alongside our students at by volunteering or giving today. If you’d like to help transform a life and change the world, email me today at

– Andy Bales

Executive Director 


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