Note: this poem was inspired by a Documentary on Netflix called “Fire At Sea”. Amazing, but difficult to watch, especially given what’s going on in my country (the US) presently with the refugee crisis. It’s not for the faint of heart to watch, but I feel necessary for anyone who has a heart and cares about their fellow human…
Humans have so many peculiar traits. There are a myriad of cultural, ethnic and race oddities we humans have adopted that allude me. How far in the centuries do they go back and from where do they stem?
For instance: where does royalty come from? Watching The Crown last night, it struck me as, well, silly (no offense to anyone reading), that we as humans actually regard other humans as somehow superior. That their blood is somehow ‘royal’ and to be treated specially; that we should bow down and kiss their hands etc. It struck me as funny.
And then there is the black vs. white situation. We all know the horrors of that situation, not only in this country, but in South Africa too. How do humans come to a place that one race is more deserving than another? Where does this feeling begin?
In Germany, we have an idea where to trace the hatred of the Jews and subsequent extermination of them. But was it really just one man’s idea or is there an underlying theme among humans that somehow we are not all equal? I see a trend.
There are so many examples we can look to in history where one people feels different and better or somehow higher. In some cases, like with royalty, maybe these people are held in high esteem. But in most cases, it causes bad blood among the groups.
I’m no scientist, but I do know that at our cellular level, and when you cut us all open, we all bleed them same. We all look the same on the inside. We all have a heart, two lungs, two kidneys and a brain, although some don’t use it as well as others. That’s why when you get right down to it, it’s all so foolish that we fight and kill, destroy and bomb, displace and denigrate folks we feel are others. Because really they are not.
They are really us, maybe with a different color paint, but filled with the same parts.
Honoring those who served on this Memorial Day. We must all take a moment to think about what freedom truly means. And to give a moment of silence not only for our veterans but for all the people in this country who have given up their freedom because of any kind of injustice laid upon them. Freedom is not just for some in America, but it is for everyone who came here, was brought here, was born here or was a native. And we all need to figure out a way to make sure this freedom is shared equally.
For much of my life, especially in the last years, I’ve had a strong longing to want to help people. Yes, in my years as a paramedic I did help people, but that was a job so I didn’t really feel that counted deep down.
It’s hard to express, but I guess a part of me felt called in some way to do more: to give back to humanity or the world in a greater way. My heart always just felt pulled and doesn’t seem fulfilled unless I’m giving in some way or another.
Back where I used to live, I tried a number of times to join volunteer organizations, but lack of time or the unbelievable red-tape (surprisingly) to simply give one’s time to places usually just ended up turning me off. Why can’t someone just help? It was nuts. That happened here too when I called a the central volunteer place. I would have had to take a whole day off from work just to go to some ‘orientation’ to learn to sit with an elderly person so I could read to them? Seriously?
It seems nowadays someone’s good intent gets mucked up with liability and other bureaucratic nonsense that makes it unpalatable for someone to even want to give time. Or the volunteer expectations are too demanding, so it becomes discouraging.
And how does one even decide who is really more deserving of time? What constitutes need in someone else to help them in some way?
Today I had a bit of an epiphany about that very question.
Every day I go to work in a stressful and often unhappy place. It’s filled with overworked folks who complain, grouse about each other and can be extremely negative. They often have crabby looks on their faces, appear tired and run-down, talk about each other and generally don’t always seem to like what they do. Not everyone is like this, but the atmosphere could make Mother Teresa have at least one bad day a week in this OR.
So I thought: these people are in need much of the time. Anything they may have going on in their personal lives (and I happen to know many of them do), is only amplified by their misery at work. The pressure and stress at work wreaks havoc on some of them, even the best of them.
They get hurt physically, they get sick, have headaches, yell at each other, are depressed…it’s a mess. It’s actually quite sad to watch, I thought. It struck me today that this is the perfect place to do some positive work! I needn’t go any farther than my work place to do some good!
Actually, I started a while back by providing a big, huge box of candy for anyone who wants it throughout the day. Sometimes they have a hard time grabbing food in time, so this helps getting a quick snack. I also have a ‘medical’ stash of Ibuprophen, Tums, eye glass cleaner etc.
But the most important thing I am now concentrating on is being cheerful, kind and nice to people–even the most crabby. Taking into consideration what may be going on within their personal lives, piled with work stuff—it can’t hurt to try. I’m also doing a special feature in the newsletter where I will premier one person a month: Surgical Services Star.
No, I’m not going to Africa to save the world or even down the street to a nursing home, but these folks need something too. We are all human beings no matter how big or small our need. Touching someone else’s life in a positive way is simply a ripple that can’t be bad.
There is just so much negativity these days: on the news, on the blogs I read, in our work place, within families, driving down the street… I for one just would like to change it in myself. And if I can help change it in others, then I’ve helped change the world a little bit and I’m OK with that for now.
And maybe someday down the road I’ll change the world a lot.
Sometimes it takes a rendering to make something whole. Or a walkabout to make one want to be in one place. Maybe trying lots of different things to decide you like only one. Such is the case with a friendship I am now enjoying once again.
My friend has been gone in the Peace Corps for two years, but now he is home. It was a long two years for me as I felt my behavior basically chased him there. While he was planning to go there long before I met him, our meeting was sweet and fast and his leaving was harsh and painful. Such is the way of fast burning candles.
But now we are both so different. It’s quite amazing that we could have changed this much in two years. His changing was brought about by the obvious situation of being plopped into unfamiliar territory. Africa, Malawi in particular, challenged him as a person in so many ways: some frustrating, some delightful. Being a Peace Corps volunteer always brings the person to new places within and this is often the goal of joining in the first place. Certainly it was the case with my friend.
For me, my experience was much different. It came in a moment–a pivotal moment in time, a car crash that almost took my life. And then the two years that followed became my years in unfamiliar territory. It was my time to go deep within and rearrange myself and decide how to live a better life now that I had a second chance to do it.
While I’m still not sure how or if my friend thought about me and our relationship while he was in Africa, I know I thought about him and us. I wondered if there would be that proverbial ‘second chance’ at taking our friendship to another level? We had been so close and so dear, but the timing was not right. Both of us had our issues, me especially, and apparently needed to make our separate journeys.
Part of mine involved really evaluating many of the past relationships I have had, and there have been many. Looking at what was good, what was bad, what I had done right and wrong. I had a really strong sense, even a picture of what I needed and wanted should I ever do it again. And also knew I wouldn’t do it again unless it really felt right and with the right person. I’ve been perfectly content alone.
Being best friends was a top priority. Compromising, listening, losing the sense of controlling everything, laughter, sharing, having the same priorities/ethics and sense of giving. These are some of the things I valued. This time around I simply didn’t want to fight with someone over dumb things which I tended to do before because I felt I needed to be right a lot. I’ve realized over the last years how unimportant most things are now.
We have quickly sensed the ease in one another, the subtle but important differences but felt the same sense of the deep attachment we had before he left. I suspect it will keep growing now that we are both relaxed and committed to being healthy this time. And that we both realize what’s truly important.
Yes, sometimes it takes one’s heart distance to feel the palpable need to be closer to another. Painful as it is, it may do it good in the long run. So now comes the hopeful time to see where the road takes us. Hopefully home.
Home today…mental health day after yet another miserable day at work caused by others. I’m resting and thinking once again about the future.
Something is afoot. I’m feeling it. If I had someone to read my astrology chart, I believe they would say times they are a-changin’. And I believe good things are ahead.
Already some people are back in my life that I know will be making a difference. A dear friend just returned from his two plus years in the Peace Corps. We were thick as thieves before he left, but could not be as in touch while he was in Africa. I’m delighted to have him back.
A less close pal has also drifted into my life, and we speak almost daily too. This has been a calming influence on my life in time where I have needed it. And there have been deepening relationships with other old and dear friends that just continue to grow, ripen and blossom. New friendships too, sprung from this very blog, are cherished even though I may never actually meet these wise and funny people.
So I am comforted by the fact my life is shifting. And moves that are to make for peace in my life must be made now. I’ve been nervous to do so before because of lack of confidence, or simply resting in the status quo of my daily grind. But now I must take the leaps.
I’m putting my faith in the fact that nothing has to be finite. Any change I make can be unmade. Some not so easily, but forging forward is sometimes just what needs to be done. My mother used to say: when one door closes, another opens. Sometimes in ways we don’t even imagine.
World AIDS day holds special meaning to me. It does because of my daughter and her HIV status. My journey with her has been long, interesting and has deepened me as a person. I’ve met so many courageous men, women and children–many of them living with the disease, and many of them helping those who do. I feel lucky to have walked this path.
My first real up close encounter with HIV was back in the late 70’s. I was living in an apartment within a huge old house in Connecticut. Still a college student, I was living off campus with the man who would be my first husband. There were three apartments in this house. The apartment downstairs was occupied by a female grad student in forestry and upstairs by a gay man who worked for the phone company.
We were all friends…like family really. Sharing meals, stories and life together. I was the youngest of all of them, so looked up to them. The guy upstairs would always relate stories of going to ‘the baths’ in Hartford where he would meet other men. None of us thought much of this at the time–not even him I imagine. AIDS wasn’t anything we really thought much about.
He ended up moving out to San Francisco–Connecticut didn’t provide a good lifestyle for him. We were happy for him and hoped he found happiness. He gave me a rocking chair and a sweater before he left. I lost touch with him and the gal that lived downstairs. But when the epidemic hit, I was always fearful of what became of him. He had been so vulnerable visiting those baths every weekend. I never did hear. But I have moved the rocking chair with me all these years…..
We were told when we adopted my daughter at 2 years old that she wouldn’t live past 9 or so. This was the life expectancy back then. She’s going to be 22 on December 4th. It was very hard at first. Even being educated, we were nervous bringing HIV into the home back then. I will admit it! She was two and I had a three-year old! But we learned quickly and it was fine.
It wasn’t easy for her as a little child: dragging around an IV pole, IV sticks all the time, blood work, constant doctors appointments, medicines. But she was a miracle kid with her viral load always undetectable! They just couldn’t figure it out. I always figured it was because she never paid any attention to it–never worried about it. Even now, her counts are still very good. Luck? Good genes? She doesn’t live in the greatest of environments now, or eat very well, but at least she had a good start.
I’ve been so fortunate to have met some amazing people along the way. The kids in clinic are so amazing. They have such spirit. They have been dealt a card and playing it like winners. And there was one Mom that became my friend. Her life was so rough. As a parent not only did she have to deal with the disease herself and the addiction that put her there, but also the guilt of passing it to her child! But she had the strength of 10 of me. She taught me a lot about addiction–something I needed later in my life when someone close to me was going through it. She said once to me, “There’s only one thing you need to change in your life when you’re addicted and that’s everything.” No truer words were said. I believe this woman is no longer alive.
HIV kept my daughter from going to a daycare where we had just moved. We didn’t want to make a fuss because we knew how these small towns worked. She ended up getting bussed somewhere great. Years later the same place (with new directors) offered a spot to my youngest daughter because they knew the story. Good karma. The elementary school started Universal Precautions because of my daughter too. We were vocal and open about her status to help educate people. Sometimes this helped, sometimes it hurt.
All in all, it has been an amazing experience. My daughter is an amazing spirit. It has been an incredibly rough road for her. She is mentally challenged too, so this makes it twice as hard. But she holds her head high and is proud of who she is and embraces all of herself. Sometimes I’ve had to tell her to be not quite as vocal! Now happily these kids from the 80’s are living long and healthy lives! It’s a manageable disease in this country, like diabetes.
A dear friend is in Africa with the Peace Corps doing AIDS work. It’s the other parts of the world that suffer still. We have come so far, but they have yet so far to go. Awareness is still not there. I am thankful to have been given the opportunity for this journey and when the call came to take a little HIV positive toddler in my home, that I said yes. I only pray the work continues in all parts of the world, and every woman, man and child gets the opportunity to live a healthy life.