“In the end, for each individual, it is as rational to believe he or she WILL be among the survivors as it is to assume that he or she won’t…
We must fix our hearts and minds on a clear image of the day when AIDS is no more.
Make no mistake about it,
That day will come.”……….Michael Callen
This is the quote that fills two entire walls in the reception area at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center where I volunteered every Tuesday for a year. The majority of my patients were HIV positive or had AIDS.
“So what is going on?” I would ask when a patient sat before me. We did not have the luxury of an hour like in private practice so the conversation continued as he or she got on the table as I would gently wash their feet with a warm towel. I listened deeply and then used my skills to reduce the anxiety of the newly diagnosed, alleviate the cravings of those afflicted with addictions, and treat the unpleasant side effects of the medications. I never mentioned once that I had a front row seat when AIDS first reared its mysterious head in the 80’s relentlessly claiming the lives of friends and acquaintances day in and out.
“It is a different disease today,” the doctor I shared the office with told me. And it is. My patients inspired me—the recovering crystal meth addict writing and performing in plays, the newly diagnosed young man gearing up for his first art show, and the man with AIDS for two decades who arrived for his fifth treatment grinning from ear to ear because he had just done a handstand for the first time in his yoga class.
Volunteer work is good for the soul especially when it has meaning for the giver. At the end of each shift I would wipe down all surfaces, put the table away and walk home with a spring in my step and a smile on my lips. Work like this lifts the spirit, and if it has the power to do that, just think of what it can do for the mind and body. In the meantime, try to find a way to give your time and talent even if it is only an hour a week or once a month. You will feel energized from it.
P.S. Thank you for the warm and generous response to last week’s blog post. Most people chose to e-mail me personally. My suggestion is this: if you are so inclined and/or think it might benefit other readers, please consider replying at the end of the post. Either way, I appreciate and read each and every one.
Joanne King says
A wonderful interview along these same thoughts
The quote from Michael Callen epitomizes the sense of fear and hopelessness that was felt in the days before anti-viral drugs had been developed when a new diagnoses of HIV was almost a death notice.
I know Maureen lost dear friends to AIDS. What a great place Callen Lorde must be to volunteer and help manage peoples health care issues so they can continue with living their lives.
How life affirming.
James Heaton says
As usual, another great post.