For many in modern day America the “really bad things” like Covid 19 have always happened elsewhere. You know, over there. Our nation’s power, wealth and geographical location alone should be enough to protect us from harm, right? Just look at the size of our moat! In my experience, awakenings come in many forms for each of us. Here’s mine.
Naivety was ripped from me 40 years ago when most of my beloved friends, my dear gay friends contracted a virus that turned vibrant, healthy loved-ones into shell‐shocked, grief stricken, walking skeletons. It was beyond description or comprehension. (My dear John Johnson and my cousin Lee Gore were among the 70 in my circle who died) Discarded by their country and often disowned by their families, our small, historically fractured community rose up in unity, strength and newfound courage. For years, day after day we buried our dead, we cared for our sick, we sacrificed for one another, we did what was necessary. And in our grief we demanded our country’s support through every means possible, from the power of diplomacy and the elegance of the arts to new, in-your-face forms of civil disobedience the likes of which had never been seen. We channeled our rage and grief. We Acted Up knowing that Silence Equaled Death and we schooled our public officials in what We The People could achieve when fighting for our lives, together. And we grieved. And grieved.
For many of us in the LGBTQ community who survived, that loss of innocence stretched and strengthened us, both individually and as a community. And with our newfound tools for community building we developed sports teams, professional organizations, political clubs and community centers. We became able organizers and advocates, legal experts and legislators, doctors, business owners and dreamers following our artistic and creative passions, perhaps surprising even ourselves in the process. Many of us learned how to stand tall for the first time while shedding the dead weight of generationally inherited shame as “sissies,” “degenerates” and “queers.” And having found our voices through the clarity and perspective that only great loss and suffering can provide, we set ourselves free to live out loud with dignity, integrity and purpose, allowing the grief and loss to take its proper size in our hearts over time. From the pandemic of HIV and its unimaginable grief and loss came unexpected learnings, strengths and yes, gifts.
For others, the perception of safety in America came tumbling down along with the twin towers. That kind of sinister brutality happening on American soil was simply unthinkable. The grotesque intention of mass civilian murder and incineration of human life had now penetrated American soil with images forever burned into the minds of millions. Yet as the horrors of 911 unfolded, the shock and disbelief did not deter hundreds of first responders from running toward danger to serve their fellows. To this day images of those brave women and men heading into the towers bring tears to my eyes. Those acts of courage, duty, honor and self sacrifice lift our hearts and spirits in healing and empowering ways. I believe courage is contagious. The lessons in courage from that horrific day and in the days that followed, not just by 1st responders but by so many everyday citizens doing acts of kindness inspired us then and will lift us for years to come.
Now a new generation of Americans is positioned to experience what may be yet another momentous awakening. The virus known as Covid 19, like a title wave moving across the globe, has touched our shores. For some, especially those of my vintage, the gravity of this unfolding may have been realized at once. For others a more gradual appreciation may occur. And for many, there will be no appreciation until it hits ones own circle. We all need to respect our own process in which to take in the enormity of this moment in time. Yes, there will be loss and heartache, fear and shock, greed and foolishness.
But more importantly there will be profound acts of kindness and compassion, selfless gestures as we look in on our neighbors, new connections, new perspectives and newfound sources of courage, resilience and awareness bubbling up within each of us.
I believe that the greatest beauty in this world rests in simple acts of human kindness, one person to another. And that is our choice. When I look back at this moment in history, how will I want my participation, attitude and behavior to have unfolded? Will I be pleased with my choices? Did I take the time to be mindful, to use my abilities, gifts and talents to help calm and comfort others?
In my experience challenging times can bring out the very best in us, if we choose it. There are many things for which I have no power or control. My attitude, choices, compassion and empathy are not among them.
Sending hope, peace of mind, patience and loving energy to all as we pass through this moment in time, together. David⚘