Monday, April 19, 2010

AIDS Awareness

April 19, 2010

I had a surprising experience over the weekend. While it would be difficult for me to explain the effect this Elton John song has had on me, I think today is a slight indicator. The song tells of an estranged son who has been rejected by his father for being gay. In real life, the son's name was Ryan White, who will be familiar to many. The song also tells of warm reconciliation. Even though I never knew a gay person growing up, nor had I met anyone with AIDS, this song would always touch my heart.

I have garnered much more experiences since then, therefore I still hold the song very dear. However, there is a side of me that wants to weep when I hear the song. There are times when I am frankly ashamed and embarrassed of myself and the way I felt about the world in the past. Without getting too detailed, I will simply state that my attitude toward homosexuality and AIDS as a young man was something like: "Well, they deserve to die for getting AIDS, and God is punishing them." I won't even get into how this narrow view doesn't even capture the broad segment who contracted AIDS through no fault of their own, but I'm sure at the time I was certain the gays were to blame for the spread.

On Saturday I was listening to Elton John's song, and I felt intense shame for my past feelings on the matter. What a horrible way to view the world! Why would anyone think anything other than how sad it is that people even have to deal with such an awful disease, and that many had to die from it. How awful to think that in our country, we may have hesitated to help those who could have otherwise survived, because of thinking I displayed previously - the very thinking that many probably still believe today?

I did not realize it until today, but there was an AIDS walk taking place on Saturday in Laramie. I don't think I was even aware it was going on until I ran into a friend who had participated. But I wonder if I was maybe there in spirit as I was having these thoughts in my mind. The thing is, AIDS is still a horrific disease that kills people all around the world. I don't know why we don't hear more about it, but I am saddened by every death, no matter where or how it happens. I think in the future I will want to raise more awareness of this disease, and be more involved in lending understanding and compassion to those who may be suffering because of it. Although I regret the way I have felt about this matter in my youth, I take solace in the fact that I have been able to change my perspective for the future.

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