world aids day 2011…

December 2, 2011

I cried like a baby…I could barely even take pictures. I was so overwhelmed by so many gathering, people that are walking the HIV/AIDS path, the people that love them, and those we were remembering. There is something so powerful about a gathering of great kindness and compassion, the solidarity of standing together in love.

To know that you are not alone or forgotten…that even in something so dark there is hope. And I could tell, each person there, the 400 holding umbrellas held a story…and when you are in the middle of 400 stories representing a million more of people all over the world, you are also standing in a very great love, one that is palpable and surreal.

And you sort of start saying a quiet prayer in your heart that everyone could feel this. That the very person petrified to test would know this kind of love is waiting for them. And I know not every city can promise this, but my city can, because of the Fan Free Clinic and stories like this:

From a friend living with HIV:

My first statement is that living with HIV has been my blessing!!!!! By far the most challenging thing in my life! I have been so very blessed to be here, even though I have been positive for well over a decade, I am not your usual sleeping around type of guy, I infact was sexually assaulted by an ex partner. And still did not know for almost a year after. I will state that I chose a different route of feeling sorry for myself and blaming everyone, even though till this day I never cried about it. I choose to use drugs as my security blanket. But I am here to tell you that GOD and family does wonders, I went from having 9 t-cell and well into the millions in viral load to undetectable and healthy as a horse. My fight against HIV has been hard and I still have a long way to go….but instead of considering myself just living to die… I am dying to LIVE!!!!!! There is so much more I want to tell you I just wanted to give you some sort of idea of what to write….its all about HOPE. And also the LOVE I have experienced from my current partner who I see as a tree when I was in darkness and shadows lifted me in his branches and let the sun shine on my face….. I am me I am HIV positive I am here and I am NOT going anywhere!!!

There are really no words to totally capture the day…but the kind people of Big River did a really beautiful job telling the story.

I don’t know how to be anything but mushy and weepy about all this…and so proud. SO damn proud to call this place my home and these people friends and members of my community. I am humbled and honored to stand beside you.

Thank you to Richard Corbett and Julie Sulik for allowing me to be part of this amazing project and their incredible vision and heart, to Darlene for being my friend and sharing her story with me, to my new anonymous friend for sharing stories and more to come, to John Jessie for holding great heart space for change, to Kevin Clay who is a world changer in every way,  and to the Fan Free Clinic for showing me what it looks like to really care for people, all humans, with dignity and love.

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this kind of love…

March 31, 2011

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Karen and Natasha

Sometimes the people who cross my path just kind of stop me cold in my kindness tracks. My friends at the Fan Free Clinic do this to me every time we share even a short bit of time together. I found myself at the Fun For a Cause event benefitting the Fan Free Clinic the other night. Natasha, the emcee, was sassy, beautiful and tender, it was my first drag show and I think it may have been a little bit of heaven.

I found Natasha Carrington to be witty and sharp, pushing the crowd to give at just the right moments. She was on a mission, a mission to return the love she had received herself. This determined kindness, powered by love and suffering is a force to be reckoned with. It is the kind that has known deep soul pain, the kind that has been touched by the deepest part of humanity, the kind that is relentless because it knows no bounds…this love is Natasha, this is the Fan Free Clinic.  

It was an honor to witness, to behold…so thank you to 2 doctors, 1 nurse and a minister who decided that everyone deserves care and love, everyone.

For Natasha and all who know this kindness*:

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
—Naomi Shihab Nye

*Thank you Kati for sharing this poem with me.