Friday, September 12, 2014

taking in stories

It's crazy to think it's been more than a month already. There is a lot of HIV in LA. I have spent a lot of time listening. I have taken in a lot of stories.
(billboard on my drive home each day)

The stories start to run together. It's not that they are the same - it's just that there are so many:

A woman who was diagnosed while she was pregnant. She told her oldest child but still doesn't know how to tell the young ones. 

A father who didn't want to spread his cough to his baby girl, so he came to the ER to get checked. Now he asks if it's safe to hug her ever again. (yes, it is.)

A woman who was raped while she was crossing the border. Her child and family are still in Central America; she hasn't told them what happened. 

A grandmother who needed a blood transfusion years ago. 
A traveler from Europe who felt sick during his vacation.
A rapper with big dreams who ended up homeless and addicted to drugs.

People who have fought HIV for years, and people who found out only minutes ago. 
People in good relationships and bad ones. 
People who sleep on the streets and people who live in mansions.
People who laugh and cry and fight for life with a resilience I'll never know. 
A lot of the time, the sorrow of these stories is overwhelming. And despite huge advances in medicine, having HIV is difficult - whether it is the hurt or shame of how it was acquired, or the discrimination that those with HIV still face, or isolation from family, or struggling to break free from the addiction that led to becoming infected, or being unable to work due to illness, or simply having to remember to take medicine every day from now on. I'm still figuring out how to take it all in, how to keep listening, how to keep offering hope. 

"Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, 
to enter into the places of pain, 
to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish." 
-Henri Nouwen

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