Shaun Fryday, whose faith community emulates his personal hospitality, to be this year’s recipient of the Craig Chaplin Memorial Award


Rev Shaun Fryday has been selected by Montreal’s United Theological College to receive the award, established by my late brother, at the UTC Convocation on May 8th, 2013. Fittingly, the ceremonies will take place in Shaun’s congregation of Beaconsfield United Church.

When he received the news, Shaun is said to have been deeply moved, recalling Craig as one of his closest friends and how the award makes Craig seem “very present”.

Craig died on May 9, 2007 as the result of a fall fifteen days earlier which caused traumatic brain injuries. Like me, he had been retired since the mid-1990s when the stress and fatigue of living with HIV had become too much to bear in his capacity as a United Church minister in west-end Montreal. It was shortly thereafter that he first made plans to establish the award, which would follow his death.

In a letter to the college, in which he outlined terms of reference for the award, Craig wrote:

“…it is my intention and desire that this award be presented in recognition of the particular ministries of gay and lesbian people both within the formal, organized structures of the Christian Church and without…to honour those whose life’s work has been particularly distinguished in its clear embodiment of such central Gospel values as personal courage and integrity, life-affirming faith and spirituality, an unswerving commitment to social justice and a sustainable environment and solidarity with those who are poor or marginalized.

“The conditions of eligibility for potential recipients of this award are intentionally and necessarily exclusive in one important respect – the person being honoured must be able and willing to be publicly recognized as a lesbian or gay man. I am sadly aware of the fact that because of the current climate within some churches and certain elements of our society, this condition effectively excludes a good many competent and highly gifted people who are eminently deserving but who do not feel they can risk coming out of the closet at this time. I am all too aware of the oppression many of them suffer and the peculiar irony in the fact that I am creating an award for which I myself would not have been eligible for most of my professional career in the Church because of my own inability during those years to be safely and publicly self-declared as a gay man.”

Craig went on to say that he believed the award would have the potential to create positive, visible role models for gay and lesbian Christians. He poignantly recalled the United Church’s much-debated decision in 1988 to no longer exclude LGBT persons from consideration as ministers. The final decision was made at a Church-wide council meeting in Victoria, which Craig attended with much trepidation, referring to LGBT members in the third person.

Much has, thankfully, changed since then – the Church evenly electing an openly gay man as Moderator last August!

In nominating Shaun, his congregation cited his vision and commitment to numerous social justice initiatives, from guiding the parish in becoming an LGBT-affirming congregation to the creation two years ago of an LGBTQ Youth Centre, a first for Montreal’s West Island (and for any church!). The centre has more recently expanded its outreach to family members of the LGBTQ community as well as to LGBT adults seeking to break out of isolation.

A couple of paragraphs from a congregation member’s supporting letter speak volumes:

“…after working at the front lines of the African AIDS epidemic I needed solace and community…Shaun was not only open about his sexuality, he was willing to explore the injustices the world visited on LGBTQ people and explore how the experience of being ‘different’ in the world might offer us all opportunity to live more compassionately and justly…

“But I also would like to make clear that Reverend Fryday does not confine his zeal for social justice in ministry merely to issues directly impacting the LGBTQ population and their families. He has been a fierce advocate for the indigenous people of the Philippines, and has determinedly brought their plight into our consciousness at Beaconsfield United Church. Indigenous communities in far away places are easy communities for comfortable Canadians to ignore. But Reverend Fryday has demonstrated that to do so is merely to perpetuate the systems of inequality that plague our planet, destroy communities and, ultimately, our planet. And when injustices on this scale occur, we cannot be silent.”

Shaun’s c.v. concludes, “I have a number of leisure activities that I enjoy pursuing. Particularly, I am an avid reader, I enjoy writing, and I love to cook (and eat!)”

Shaun is a tall, and in other ways, large man – self-deprecating, too!

His hospitality figured prominently in the agonizing days that Craig lay dying in Montreal’s Neurological Institute. Craig’s partner, Claude, and sister Lynn kept constant vigil each day asking other would-be visitors (other than we siblings) to respect their privacy. With understanding and compassion illustrative of his pastoral care, Shaun prepared and delivered delicious home-cooked meals a considerable distance each day to the walk-up Craig and Claude shared in the “Le Plateau” district. I was privileged to partake in some of these meals, both in Montreal and Perth (those we took up there for Craig’s burial).

Craig’s family is proud to anticipate Shaun receiving this award!

Two names to be added to Craig Chaplin Memorial Award


This spring’s presentation of the award in my brother’s memory will include a couple of firsts – two individuals are being cited and they’re from across the Canada-U.S. border in neighbouring Vermont.

To be more accurate, one-half of the couple of Dr. Delores Barbeau and Carol Olstad, R.N. will be honoured posthumously as Carol, who incidentally was a Canadian born in Alberta, unfortunately died last October in their adopted home of Weston, Vermont.

The two met in 1983 while working in strife-torn Bolivia, Delores as a Maryknoll nun-turned-physician and Carol a registered nurse working under the auspices of the Canadian Baptist Overseas Mission Board.

Delores had only lived and worked with Bolivians since 1969 and, given the political climate, knew how much safer it would be to avoid becoming attached to Carol.

Bolivian authorities were already suspicious, to say the least, of church aid workers in their midst (let alone white North Americans); not easily dissuaded from their presumptions of CIA connections. Imagine if they knew they were lesbians!

But the Bolivian Ministry of Health assigned the two to work together, within a year of their first meeting, in a remote tropical jungle.

Not more than a year later the government had put Delores on a hit list and the two fled Bolivia, travelling to Nicaragua to work for five years alongside the people defending their dignity and rights against American-backed rebel forces out to destroy the successful Sandinista government.  (This corrects my earlier history-fogged equating of the rebels as the more courageous side to be on!)

In 1991 Delores and Carol returned to the United States, first New York and Massachusetts and then Vermont, sharing their lives openly as a couple while continuing to live the “social gospel” lessons of their respective faiths, even if no longer so affiliated. (They have since enjoyed the community of the Monks of Western Priory in Vermont where Carol was solemnly and happily remembered following her death in October of last year.)

In a letter to loved ones about her experiences, Delores concludes:

So. That was Bolivia.

What was it like?
It changed my life forever.
I learned to love.
I learned to look at things in a new way and walked in many different shoes.
I learned other definitions for family.
I learned that there were priorities.
I learned to dance.
I stood before mass graves, and buried many friends.
I learned what fear really felt like.
…and in all of this I never knew a time when I did not know God.

The 2012 Convocation of United Theological College, during which the Craig Chaplin Memorial Award is presented (and Delores will deliver the Convocation Address), will be held at Summerlea United Church on Wednesday, May 9 – five years to the day since Craig’s death.

With such an early spring, maybe his favourite irises will be in bloom.

There is no hierarchy in grief: Of Norway and Amy Winehouse


Please read this from Scott Dagostino, whose writing makes me admire the way his mind works.

Being someone who might preemptively describe myself as naive (which endears me to world-wise friends and the ne’er do-well-alike), I must say the title of Scott’s post took me in with more than its most obvious sarcasm and led to a deeper, even more evocative message.

The pallbearers of history seem frozen in their places these days, BREAKING NEWS interruptions startling and incomprehensible. Are we to be judged, as facts settle, for an uncomfortable lack of surprise?

As Scott points out feelings surrounding more than one tragic event at a time are not only possible but healthy. I don’t give the blame-stream media much credit for this, one moment sanctimoniously screeching, “What’s with Amy?” and the next re-tracing the steps of her train-wreck. Musicians,fans, and salaried pop-culture followers – many of whom know the industry of which they speak – are a welcome exception.

Those of us who identify with even a fraction of Amy Winehouse’s experience, who perhaps hope that our lives will be remembered not for the hurdles we’ve overcome but for the overcoming itself, would do well to think more than “But for…grace…there go I”. Powerful though that contracted quote may be – for reasons I have felt for a long time – very few would suggest that this doesn’t require willingness to work. Sometimes, and my knowledge of Amy Winehouses’s story begins and ends with her music, an obvious need for help (or defiant cry against it), is not enough when our perception of the problem is her solution (as it has been for me/us in the past). This was not about reasoning with her. We are left to mourn and to miss Amy Winehouse.

Back to Norway and referring again to Scott, he gives examples of evidence that the varieties of scale notwithstanding, it goes without saying that deranged people and their despicable acts are not unfamiliar. This guy – be he right-wing fundamentalist Christian, xenophobe and/or I’m wondering if maybe homosexual-minus-the-gay (wouldn’t that be a clever escape for the Right?) – kept himself alive for probably only the most sadistic reasons, his freedom to speak at today’s court appearance thankfully thwarted.

Nothing will hold back our shock, grief and anger. However a healthy brain is complex and, therefore, resilient enough to process all matters of information and emotions. Maybe even laugh along the way. With a name like “gallows humour”, you know that expressions didn’t come from the “Y” generation, and I’ve been known to enjoy such humour in AIDS circles. A now-defunct letter (newsletter would not suit its editors nor those claiming more legitimacy) called Diseased Pariah made the rounds at the height (let’s hope) of the AIDS scythe’s attempted purge of my community. DP was irreverent, offensive to many, even hard to stomach for some in the HIV-infected camp – of course what wasn’t hard to stomach back then? It found a niche but didn’t last as long as some of us might have liked and brought laughter to the grimmest of times for many.

Whether in formal or informal support groups I have been fortunate to have at my disposal the listening ears, hugs and shared laughs of countless fellow travelers. Many of the best models for care, of self and others, were exercised and developed when hope seemed so fleeting. Those tools are still operational.

Laughing then, as now, was a relief valve of stress, sorrow and feelings of certain death. It has a time and place with receptors eager to work, in the same minds as the distraught, whenever we are ready.

There is an important difference between humour and satire, or other genuine comforts, and some of the crassness or just unwitting ignorance which sells itself as information (news even!)

How long before we hear about “closure”?

I had been meaning to post this sooner but “computer says ‘No!’”

Messiah the Musical


handel I know, I know – George Frederick Handel’s famous work is actually an Oratorio.  (A musical would require lots of period costumes and at least one big dance number!  Now imagine combining that with Mel Gibson’s gratuitously blood-letting Passion of the Christ.  No, let’s not.)

This was the time of year, probably forty years ago, that I first heard Messiah performed.  More about that presently.  Contrary to common practice, when versions of the Messiah compete with one another in the city, the work was not written for Christmas. Only the first part of the composition has to do with the birth of Jesus. The second and third parts focus on the stories of his death, resurrection, sending of the Spirit at Pentecost, and then the dream of a final resurrection of all believers. (Think of the overwhelming conclusion Worthy is the Lamb and Amen.) Handel’s masterpiece was first performed in Dublin on April 13, 1742, 19 days after Easter.

The very next year a lasting tradition was born when, as the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus began during a performance on March 23, 1743, King George II rose to his feet. Speculation as to why have ranged from His Majesty needing to stretch his legs, his mistaking the opening notes for the national anthem, to his simply being so overwhelmed with the music that he felt compelled to stand. Nevertheless people the world over still rise at the sounding of the first notes of the Hallelujah Chorus

It was spring, before Easter, somewhere in the early 1970s that I first heard Messiah.  Hardly a stellar performance, I’ve only enjoyed better and better renditions since.  The venue was a United Church in Cornwall, an industrial place of about 50,000 just across the Ontario border from our home in (Salaberry-de-)Valleyfield, Quebec.  I don’t remember what sort of orchestra was involved, if any, and I would only be guessing if I called the choir The Seaway Valley Chorus, a combined choir from every church from Brockville to Lancaster.

A family friend, Robert, was minister at this church and he and his wife, Marilyn, and their children were back and forth with us three or four times each year.  Unfortunately this was one of the last times we saw Marilyn, who died of cancer following a brain tumour.

Something eerily similar comes to mind as I listen to I know that my Redeemer liveth which comes right after Hallelujah.  As organist and choir director of a very small United Church in Valleyfield, Mom was fortunate to have two very talented soloists. One of them, Martha, a contralto, sang this piece on a couple of Easter occasions before she died of cancer.

The sum-total of the music, combined with a great performance – either live or recorded – completely eclipses whatever bittersweet associations I have with the work from my early days of learning about it.

Hope as verb, noun and/or feeling


Everything I am feeling in this moment is in the context of having watched, via television and Twitter, the roller-coaster of events in Egypt these past 18 days, of having just listened to the Feb. 6 (2011) edition of Tapestry from CBC Radio with Mary Hines, and of having made the seemingly Herculean effort to order refills of my HIV, diabetes and “head” meds.

And already I have forgotten why I could only describe myself as despondent when I opened up this page.

Towards the end of the week, say about twelve hours before the start of Friday Prayers in Cairo, I was in discussion with some peers about the now-tired links I make between the distinct hells of elementary school and my adolescence, then of my instant activism after the 1981 bath house raids in Toronto (just add water, or steam, and stir!)  Oh, and then I added that leap fart of logic that permeated me for so long “…if anyone deserves AIDS I do.”  Even though I quickly pointed out that I have dismissed this asinine proposition, intellectually, I allowed that it may still hide in the nodes of my psyche as traces of seemingly “undetectable” HIV viral load might hide from the best available tests – though I did not use that analogy.  Frankly HIV could probably hide better, regardless of whether it is or not.

It stands to reason then, if reason is all I can stand on, that I might feel despair given Dr. Kenn’s self-diagnoses (AIDS-because-I-deserve-it and mental-illness-because-well-life-just-piled-up).

Listening to myself, as the conversation with my peers played over and over during the walk home, I understood – was aware of, made sense of – almost immediately how the 51-year old Kenn brutally judges (ever-present tense) the Kenneth of childhood, the Ken of adolescence and the Kenn of a promising adulthood.  Then, with a deep sigh, I recognized (again) how tiring this is – to me, sure, and I can only begin to imagine how much so to any audience (at least anyone not paid to listen!)

John’s question emerged, from among the group, asking me how I would respond to someone presenting my self-evaluation.  Not a new question, of course, I said I’d tell them it (circumstance=deserving) was absurd and to cut myself some slack.

That’s what I left with Thursday evening, not picking it all up again until listening today to the aforementioned edition of Tapestry (which, in all candour, is this loner-wannabe’s “church”-of-choice more than any other these days).   While the Thursday evening mood personified wanted to dislike what I was hearing, I could not.

The stream of consciousness of the past couple of weeks (and blog posts) went like this: forgiveness (others and myself) does NOT mean condoning anything, the letting go frees me up for other things – happier, productive, more self-fulfilling things.

Now what?  (Interestingly, this is one of the questions being asked repeatedly about Egypt this weekend).

Should I pack up for Haiti?  No, I don’t think so – not today at least.

Do I believe that wishing to do anything is a foolhardy distraction from what I’ve been carrying, and working on, for years?  Would a change of course, however big or small, negate everything?  No!

Having lived for so long like I could not imagine surviving another year, never mind quarter-life (and more than occasionally not wishing to!), what small steps can I take to change my attitude?

“Fake it ’til you make it”?

“Act as if…”?

Well, internalizing those phrases would be a pleasant change from the self-defeating mantras, so – if nothing else – let this be a beginning.

I understand, and have experienced, how ‘getting out of self’ can lighten the load a great deal.  Therefore I could do a lot worse with my time than thinking about ways to do this.

I would rather be cut down in the middle of something, only at the moment of my death, than continuously sharpening my focus on seeing it come from an undetermined distance.

“Now what?”

Better to live unto/into hope than fear (which I must always recognize is inherent in any comfortable certainty of hopelessness).

“The Shack”: allegory, empathy and the question of forgiveness


“I brought a book I think you’ll find interesting,” my cousin said as we sat down for lunch recently, handing me a paperback copy of The Shack by Wm. Paul Young.

I believe, now having read it, that she might have been nudged to give me this book because she knows, perhaps as much as any confidant, “The Great Sadness” (as the novelist puts it) which has been stored, occasionally visited, and allowed to grow unchecked in my own run-down Shack.  I’m guessing she might believe some of the messages of the novel could be applicable to me.

It is not difficult for me to imagine how wrenching it would be, certainly a step out in faith, to face those men I have written about who wronged me in my childhood and youth.  At least one is dead and the others, well, I don’t even know their names let alone their current state-of-being.

That’s not the point.  Were they to appear in my dreams I would almost certainly be forced to confront them.  Would I, in such a dream, or do I now, in compartmentalized pain, feel willing – to say nothing of empowered – to symbolically release their throats from the anger of my tight grasp and hand them over to the power whose many names include God?

The message seems to be to trust that something beyond my judgment, my imagination – beyond belief often – is a better repository for my judgment (which I ultimately can’t inflict anyway) than am I.

Somehow, in releasing my grip, I imagine forgiveness looks more like letting go – leaving judgment to forces beyond me. The haunting “monsters” of my past, after all, are dead as far as I know so my preoccupation with holding on, even if it’s not uppermost in my consciousness, is clearly only hurting me. I get that. To let go completely, though, seems more than I can do – at least on my own. Another message of the book, then perhaps, is that I don’t have to do it by myself.

To the best of my ability I release my hold on these men, that in letting go of them their power over me will be lessened. I will not, however, shy away from using the experience – all of it – as best I can whenever I believe it might be of assistance to someone else.

Music therapy – after which you may need some (without the music)


I cannot remember a time when music was not a vital part of my life.  Music is in my genes, especially from my mother’s side of the family, with my grandparents having been matched up in the early 1920s as a violinist/fiddler being accompanied by his pianist.  What I wouldn’t give for a cell-phone video of one of their evenings together at a Depression-era house party in rural eastern Ontario!  My mother studied piano throughout her childhood, later graduating from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, then earning her qualifications to teach the subject in Ontario schools.  With probably fifty years of teaching individuals, coinciding with thirty-plus years on the pipe organ at church, and I’m sure you’d agree that it was inevitable my siblings and I would also have some natural gifts in this area.

Anytime I am asked what types of music I like the only genres not on the list, with the exceptions of a few crossover songs, are country and today’s pop.  This, of course, leaves me with a vast array of music to choose from but the music player in my head doesn’t shuffle the same way that an iPod can, but goes from mood-to-mood, sometimes lingering on and repeating, over and over, the same song.

As a teen I would play and sing along to songs such as Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself”, the Beach Boys’ “In My Room” and “Hide In Your Shell” by Supertramp in my basement bedroom, no Karaoke machine required, at the top of my lungs.  I know this experience was not unique to me and, while the examples cited were just a part of my record library, my tastes were generally not too mainstream – certainly not for a guy!

All of this is to prepare you for a sampling of the YouTube video-jockeying I did late last night, prompted by two guys posting two different songs by Josh Groban.  The first was a memorial tribute, from a man who had lost his partner to AIDS several years ago, while the second was a Christmas season favourite passed on to his Facebook friends.

Then I was swept away, again, by this.

And by this.

The next selection, a lot less video than audio, was such a blessing to find recently (and another artist does sing it on camera but at a much jumpier pace than I was accustomed to.)  Years ago, when the AIDS Committee of Toronto offices were at 464 Yonge Street, there was a group of us who gathered each Sunday evening for a healing circle.  It always concluded with a slower, studio version of this song, and hearing it again sends through me chills of so many emotions:

André Gagnon – whose every recording I have possessed in formats ranging from 45s to LPs, and from cassettes to CDs and mp3s – composed this particular song in homage to beloved French Canadian poet  Émile Nelligan (1879-1941). The poetry, and tragic life, of Nelligan inspired many Québec-based composers, authors and playwrights.  In fact Gagnon, along with the legendary Michel Tremblay, later penned an opera based on Nelligan’s life and work.

These pictures hardly do his Québec notoriety justice.  Having always fascinated me in my adult years, I often pass some of his haunts whenever I am in Montréal although, to the best of my knowledge, the boutique hotel which bears his name in the Vieux-Montréal quarter has no direct connection.  (The first two images are from his home, on Laval Avenue at rue Du Square St-Louis, and the bust in the fourth picture is in that square across the street.)

 

And now, as I prepare to conclude, here is my favourite Christmas carol – bar none!

 

 

‘The Fear’ Factor


During a lunch meeting with friends today someone spoke of past states of generalized anxiety which professionals often tried, unsuccessfully, to pin down – fear of flying, fear of social situations, “What are you afraid of?”

That didn’t work.

Then, my friend recounted, while sitting with people she didn’t know she blurted out her frustrations with a list of fears that she could not articulate to the satisfaction of people paid to understand these things. 

“Oh,” said the stranger next to her, “that’s the fear” by which he meant, and she identified with, most everyone in the room had probably experienced – however long-term or short-term it was.

The fear.”

As I heard that today, speaking of fear – not as some sort of Jell-O-on-the-wall feeling but as a noun, a state of being – really resonated with me.  Something like “I’ve caught the cold.”

The first psychiatrist I ever visited asked me one day to talk about my fear(s).

He might as well have been speaking in his native eastern European language.

“Oh,” I bull-shitted, “well I really don’t know that I have any fears, but,” I offered, “I have faith that just about everything that can go wrong in my life will go wrong!”

Hmm…I don’t think I could have been more honest.  In fact, as I look back over my life it sometimes seems as though I did an end-run around the fear state (conscious or otherwise) by seeing any number of misfortunes as proof of the theory about my fears – how could I fear anything if I imagined, or even lived out, the worst case scenarios?

Like AIDS.  It was going to kill me, just as surely as it had killed my friends – only I would die sooner.  No fear, so I thought, so long as I was accepting of this.

I have been proven wrong, so far, about this which in addition to f#%king with my mind has graced me with a dose of humility as in, “I don’t know when, or how , even whether…so just keep moving!”

It was ‘the fear’, present with me for as long as I can remember, which hid behind my early masks of self-appointed family comedian – since my horrible feelings at school made “class clown” seem out of the question most of the time.  I was quite the impressionist – Tarzan yells and Granny Clampett’s screams being my specialties.

‘The fear’ was so pervasive when I was with kids my own age (and the threats this represented), and yet I can remember trying to endear myself to a couple of Craig’s high school friends with those imitations.  (I was successful with the girls, not so much with Craig at that moment.)

So, yes, I now can speak of ‘the fear’ – rather than the apparently more difficult “fear”.

 

"The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty." (Anne Lamott)

World AIDS Day 2010 – Stories – 2 – “This friend living with AIDS who gave me so much…” by Dominique Gauvreau


Each author in this series has generously given me permission to post their work. The views and experiences shared are their own. Where applicable, links will also be provided at the end of the piece.

This is the World AIDS Day, 2010 entry in Dominique Gauvreau’s blog Rencontre sous le Chêne de Mamré (Meeting under the Oak of Mamre):

(Google translation edited by KC)

 

“This friend living with AIDS who gave me so much…”

 

 

There are people who cross our path at random and without knowing just how they transform us.

In the 1980s, a mysterious illness was striking the gay community in Montreal. Acquaintances were dying around me. I was terrified. At that time I was not “out”, essentially living in a gay underground. I hid because I was ashamed of who I was. I hid because I was told again and again that being gay was against nature, immoral, abnormal. Imagine being more affected by what was dubbed the “gay cancer.”

I entered adulthood marked by a childhood in the holy water, where the Catholic Church thought it was the only one which could possibly save me from eternal fire. I was influenced more by the existence of the devil, and fear of damnation, than by a God who loves unconditionally. At this time of my life, I was still marked by homophobic attitudes, having suffered beatings and taunts at school. I was so ashamed that for fifteen years I kept secret a sudden sexual assault in late adolescence.

My silence and my imprisonment in these underground confines led to hidden relationships – dangerous, anonymous, without boundaries and dead to any fear of taking medications, alcohol and street drugs to gild my non-existence. That led to a deep depression. Well-meaning Christians stretched out their hands to heal me, yet told me that marriage was the solution to my very gay problem.

I didn’t get it, seeming to sink further. Naturally! That God rejects and hates gays was well known. I did not deserve to live.

I met Marcel at a party. He told me his life story. He was one of the first I knew who spoke openly about his HIV status. Marcel was a believer and soothed by his faith even though it was very different from mine.

We did not get together too often. We met once by chance walking on Ste-Catherine. Pleased to meet and share some time together, without a pre-arranged date, we went to the chic restaurant “Cristal” in the gay village.

One day as I paced the streets, feeling out of it, at a very low point in my life, religious and social tensions at their lowest, Marcel accosted me with his big smile, hugged me and told me how much he loved me. There was universal love, unconditional. I firmly believe that his actions that day prevented me from throwing myself under a subway train. He was kind of my angel of the day.

Several years have passed since then. Today, I work for GLBT inclusiveness and I am aware of the realities of HIV and AIDS. I’m light years beyond the young man I was at that time. However, I am shocked to see that so much remains to be done in moving toward a society that’s more tolerant and inclusive. Unfortunately, prejudice remains and there is a rise of the religious right and those who would rather see the social exclusion of people with HIV, showing homophobic feelings.

When I see the repercussions in the media of intolerance and hatred on young people who end their lives or who are considering doing so, I ask myself many questions. I have to wonder if anything has really changed in forty years. Some narratives or stories that I hear have disturbing similarities to what I experienced back then. When a character like Benedict XVI speaks of homosexuality as an injustice and against the will of God it is really baseless, ideological bullshit.

Getting back to my friend Marcel, I saw him one fall evening, cold and rainy, in a restaurant. He was letting me know about his next stay in hospital. He gave me his phone number and told me he did not really like people calling it, except me.

After several attempts to contact him, I remained without news. Worried I returned to the restaurant to ask the waitress if she had seen him lately. She told me that he had died.

Every December 1, I think of Marcel and I thank God for having placed him in my path. I think of all those I knew or I know who live with the reality of AIDS. I invite you to do the same and perhaps contribute a donation to an organization or recognized charity.

For my part, in Montreal, I suggest you donate to Cocq-SIDA. I also invite you to learn about the new “Jasmin Roy Foundation” which works to fight against homophobic attitudes in schools. This is another reality which touches me closely and which unfortunately has been topical in recent months.

 

 

"Would we still be friends if I was HIV-positive?"

 

 


Biblical text of the day

Today, the biblical text is not that suggested by Taizé as I usually do.

31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’

Recontres sous le Chêne de Mamré

World AIDS Day 2010 – Stories – 1 – Excerpts from the Prologue of “Crooked Road Straight: The Awakening of AIDS Activist Linda Jordan” by Tina A. Brown


Each author in this series has generously given me permission to post their work. The views and experiences shared are their own. Where applicable, links will also be provided at the end of the piece.

AIDS didn’t become important to me until somebody I knew died.

I imagine that is also the case for most people in the U.S.

Even now, it is easy for most of us to put our thoughts about HIV/AIDS behind us because of the way the disease was introduced into our society. We were told in the mid-1980s that it was an infectious disease killing gay white men, Haitians and intravenous drug users. I didn’t know anyone who fit those categories. I had read in school about epidemics throughout history and I never expected to experience this sort of pandemic in my lifetime in such a personal way.

I was a rookie reporter when I heard about AIDS for the first time. The TV broadcaster described it as a mysterious disease that was taking the lives of mostly white gay men in New York and San Francisco. The news report sparked my curiosity. But I didn’t think much else about how AIDS would affect me personally until 1986, when one of my colleagues at the Macon Telegraph in Georgia died suddenly.

I was just getting to know this quiet, smart and young black man who worked as a copy editor. Now, he was dead. Though I had volunteered, I hated writing his obituary. I knew so little about this guy’s personal life. The word AIDS never appeared in his news obituary. As far as the public was concerned, my colleague died of a sudden illness, a popular buzz phrase coined when young people, mostly men, died of complications related to AIDS or the human immunodeficiency virus that causes the disease. The funeral home directors whispered AIDS as the cause of death for very few people.

His death was unsettling. It became apparent to me that this disease would not just strike white gay men in their prime. I realized that AIDS might become a silent killer in Black America.

But there was very little visual evidence of HIV/AIDS affecting this part of the population, despite the statistics made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta in the mid-1980s. I pushed my concern into the back of my mind.

By 1988 I was trying to advance my career as one of seven journalists selected to go to California to develop my skills at the Summer Program of Minority Journalists — now The Maynard Institute — at the University of California at Berkeley. I was assigned to write about the return of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to the Castro district in San Francisco, at the time the epicenter of the AIDS movement in the U.S. The event was one of the most emotional stories I had written. The quilt had traveled across the U.S. and was displayed at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., before arriving in San Francisco. The mayor of San Francisco and other public officials cried as the thousands of quilt panels were unfolded for miles down a city street.

This disease was real, I thought. I had never seen so many people so emotionally affected by one event. Yet as I looked closer at the quilts being paraded down the street, I noticed that there were very few photographs on display of black faces, particularly of women.

I was touched and felt sympathetic for those affected by AIDS, but I felt safe as a heterosexual black woman. My feelings about my personal safety changed five years later when the CDC announced that heterosexual black women would be the next wave of people infected by the virus in the Northeast U.S. I fit that demographic. I wondered quietly whether I could become one of those statistics. That feeling stayed with me when I left my reporting job at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey for a new reporting position in Hartford, Conn. I promised myself once I got settled that I would write a story about how the black community was responding to HIV/AIDS in Connecticut, especially since so many people in Hartford were infected. I asked my editors: What were the traditional black institutions, especially the churches, doing to help people cope with the disease?

I set out to do that story in 1994. Though in my early 30s, I was naive. My knowledge of the streets and issues associated with poverty were limited. I didn’t grow up in the slums. I had never interviewed sex workers or intravenous drug users, people health officials said were also spreading the virus. I admit now that those people scared me because I had seen too many movies.

As the daughter of African Methodist Episcopal ministers, I took the safe approach to the story and called church leaders in cities that dotted Connecticut. To my dismay, they did not return my calls. Since I was working on the special assignment, I didn’t have time to wait by the telephone. I ventured out into community-based organizations such as the Urban League and health departments in Hartford, New Britain, New Haven and Bridgeport to talk to the professionals who were serving the “at risk” populations.

Within a month, I was walking the streets or getting connected with outreach workers like Buster Jenkins and Mark Little in Hartford. Two church mothers, Gladys Pennington and Elsie Cofield, helped direct my path through New Britain and New Haven. They connected me with black and Latino women who told me their life stories, but were unwilling to allow me to use their full names or to have their faces photographed for a newspaper story. Having the virus was a secret many of them kept from their families; they didn’t want to reveal their HIV status in The Hartford Courant. So many of them and the outreach workers who distributed condoms, clean needles and bleach kits saw my frustration, and they asked me if I had met Linda Jordan, who was quickly becoming an icon in AIDS prevention communities across Connecticut.

I called Linda and she invited me over to her house in West Hartford, a suburb of Hartford. My first interview lasted about five hours. She told me that she was a recovering heroin addict who was volunteering with seven different AIDS organizations in Connecticut. That work earned her the Mary Fisher Foundation’s National Outstanding Caregiver Award in 1993. Linda showed me the posters that she and her daughters and grandson had taken for a public awareness campaign for the Connecticut Department of Revenue and the Concerned Citizens for Humanity.

Her family is believed to be one of the first African-American families in the U.S. to put a human face on the disease. The posters are still circulating the globe. Linda was so open about her story that it struck me as odd that this woman who had experienced a lifetime of tragedies wasn’t keeping it a secret. She didn’t believe in having skeletons. She shared her HIV status and the status of her oldest daughter, Tanya, and Linda’s husband Alvin, who was in prison at the time. I wasn’t prepared to hear all of what she had to share in 1994.

My limited street smarts were obvious. It showed in my facial expressions; Linda laughed about it when we talked years later. Yet she trusted that I could learn enough to write her story. At the time, I was too far removed from the life she had led to understand her resilience. She had been molested, abused and raped before she was 10 years old. She had used heroin by the time she was 18, had married and divorced her childhood sweetheart twice. She stayed with him and bore his children, even though he was incarcerated for most of their relationship. She allowed me to hang around, attend family functions and speaking engagements so that I could learn more.

My story for the Courant, “Fighting AIDS with Resilience: Sense of Unity Blacks Confront Epidemic,’’ captured only small fragments of Linda Jordan’s life story. I felt unfulfilled after it was published in October 1994 and I went back to my regular beat covering a predominantly white upper middle-class community outside of Hartford.

About six months after the story was published, I was in Puerto Rico for vacation. The ocean has always been a place for clarity for me. I remember sitting on a rock on a beach one day. I felt like I had made the wrong decision by moving to Connecticut. I asked God why he had sent me here. What was I supposed to do in Hartford? I left there thinking that once I returned to Hartford, I had to continue my work reporting about Linda Jordan.

I owed her much more as a journalist.

I want to write your book, I told her over the telephone.

When do we start? she responded.

For the next five years, I went to Linda’s house on Maplewood Avenue in West Hartford regularly before I went to work at The Courant. I’m not a morning person, so she made sure that I had coffee and she drank tea. I also brought her my copy of the daily newspaper, and was struck that she was always most interested in the obituary page. She recounted the people that she knew had died of AIDS, had overdosed on heroin or died of other premature deaths because of their lifestyles.

My concern back in the early 1980s that black American women would have to wake up and respond to this disease became clear and present. Like in the early days, very few if any of the obituaries cited the true causes of death when someone died of AIDS. So many people were dying in secret and ashamed. But here I was sitting at Linda Jordan’s kitchen table amazed that she didn’t look sick. She was very much alive. She was not afraid to reveal her HIV status and the diagnosis of her husband and her oldest daughter. She strongly believed if those in the HIV/AIDS community stopped hiding their status, more people would accept that the disease was claiming so many others and leaving their families to cope in secret. She told her story to anyone who would listen, hoping and praying that it would be the catalyst for other women who had gone down her crooked path to change their lifestyles.

“Crooked Road Straight: The Awakening of AIDS Activist Linda Jordan” was written so that people of all races, ages, class and generations could reflect on their lives, their past sins and troubles and come to grips with things that hurt them. Linda had to forgive a lot of people because she knew that God had forgiven her. Hers is a story about choosing life despite the odds.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from Linda’s story. She accepted the roots of her pain that led to her addictions. Once she accepted her faults, she learned to live.

This book is a dream come true for both of us.

Over time, my assignment at The Courant changed. In 1998, I started writing about crime, courts and social trends in Hartford, one of the poorest cities in the nation. My time in Hartford was not wasted as I became able to write Linda’s story with authority. I was here to see the housing projects where Linda grew up before the federal government tore them down. I witnessed the impact of the AIDS epidemic among the intravenous drug community in this city and others. I saw how welfare reform changed the life of a third-generation welfare recipient who moved into the world of work not just as an AIDS outreach worker, but as a factory worker once the monthly stipends she received for most of her life dried up.

Linda’s story is about living with AIDS. Her spiritual development and belief in God once she forced her way into drug treatment taught her that she could live without the medications that so many people depend upon today. Her unfilled wish was that all religious leaders, especially those in the black church, would stand and help those with the virus who were lost and forgotten. She believed that God saved her from killing herself and AIDS was just something she had to live with. She used her life story to show others that change is possible.

This story affirmed my reasons for becoming a journalist 23 years ago. I chose this profession to tell stories about the people in our society who are largely ignored by the general public. Fortunately, my mission has placed me in unfamiliar situations and enabled me to grow up and reach inside myself to find a common ground with most of the people I’ve interviewed.

www.crookedroadstraight.com

For Betty Ann


BA and me at Pride 2009

 

I’m the only one, I dare say, who can appreciate at this very moment – Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 04 04 06 01 EST – both the frustration and the ‘been punk’d’ feeling I have after experiencing countless “(Not Responding)” messages from any number of programs I’ve successively tried to employ in writing what will ultimately be a simple, but sincere, blog.

In the denouement of an evening during which I absorbed much, enjoying some, of the day’s news from a variety of sources I scrolled through my Facebook page – in reverse order of course – until I came upon a message from my friend Betty Ann which included the YouTube video below.

When I have often least expected it, I have been told that something I’ve said, written or passed along has touched another deeply.  This is just such an occasion except, in this case, it is I who has been touched by Betty Ann’s forwarding of this message – to countless friends and contacts I reckon.

Be it the time of night I received it, the mood I was in, the feelings it evoked – or all of these – I was reminded of the empathy, trust and love which Betty Ann embodies at depths which make the oceans seem like single drops of rain.  I have known “BA”, as she invites her friends to call her, since her earliest days of her work with the AIDS Committee of Toronto.  I cherish every single mile of life’s journey that we have walked together, however haltingly at times.

From ACT, BA went on to gift the people she met at Bereaved Families of Ontario – Toronto.

Nowadays, BA enthusiastically invites and responds to life at Shalom Mountain Sacred Retreat and Study Center in the Catskill Mountains of Livingston Manor at what looks to be about the half-way point, maybe not quite, between here and New York City.

Betty Ann knows, more often than she may be told, how the divine mystery of our inner selves works.  While she may not be familiar with these two illustrations their essence remind me of her.

When I saw this video I soon thought of my father, who died in his garden in May of 2002.  Two vignettes sprung to mind.

Once, as we talked about some cathartic moment in what could have been any number of contexts, he quietly said, “Not all of us has had the chance to try to ‘find ourselves’” (I’m recalling that he was quoting that phrase back to, and in reference to, me.)  For many of his generation, he could not have been more right.  This was not a reflection, by any means, on the best-friends-for-life relationship he so richly enjoyed with my mother for fifty-plus years.

The second occasion came at the end of a weekend visit with Mom and Dad, not long after his first heart attack.  I had brought with me a scrapbook-sized photo project someone had done about me in the genre of a day in the life of a person living with AIDS.  Under each photograph was a hand-written note in which I simply commented on the picture or recounted a brief story.  Accompanying one, showing Dad and me shaking hands as I prepared to leave, I wrote something to the effect that it reminded me of an occasion early in school when he set me down off his lap and told me that I was too grown up to kiss him now. Of course – of course – he meant no harm, and my jotting down the story was equally free of malice (I could not have had a stronger advocate for a father throughout our time together), and after seeing the finished photo project Dad never greeted me, nor said good-bye, without a warm, two-armed hug!

Thank you for posting this BA.

The magic of (a) meeting


I am by habit, if not by nature, quite a loner. As an example I often recall the extraordinary lengths I went to in learning my way around London ahead of a trip there with a group of fellow high school students. Why? So I could go out on my own unencumbered by group decisions on sightseeing routes. (I cannot imagine a chaperone letting a student do this nowadays nor, however, can I blame this for any of the land-mines I stepped on later in life.)

We are, it is said, social creatures – no matter how often I have begged to differ or change that – and so it should not surprise me when I feel better, in what might be called a spiritual experience, just for having been with friends with a collective feeling of goodwill for one another.

Between the days of wandering London and my wish to recover from myself these many years later, I see myself standing (or hopefully sitting, perhaps leaning against a wall) in a crowded and, in those days, smoke-filled bar full of people. Feeling completely alone, save for the contents of the glass in my hand, I was soothing the savage beast of my self-consciousness -or so I thought – and yet repeatedly measuring my success on whether I remembered going home, or elsewhere, alone or with whomever else. More often than not it did not matter if I went home alone, either under my own steam or in the back seat of a cab hailed on my behalf by a bar-keep who had turned up the lights twenty minutes before.

Hardly social, or sociable, nor comfortably alone.

In my support circles we occasionally read that “we are people who would not normally mix”. For many years I saw that as a class divide – that highly-educated doctors (of whatever discipline), lawyers and the like would, so I thought, normally be unable to relate to people with different life experience. The common need for support tears down walls. While that may be true, it took on a new and profound meaning in the painful, isolating weeks preceding my return to the aforementioned circles in June of 2007. It wasn’t subsets of society which would not normally mix, it was me – I – who had become loath to mix with anyone, one-on-one or in small groups, more than at any time that I could remember.  The stark choice – I hope this doesn’t seem too melodramatic – was to “mix” (again) or die, the pointlessness of that notwithstanding.

Recently I have observed myself feeling isolated, even while showing up for commitments. Rejecting (if not ignoring) the “shoulds” more often than not, I followed through with my desire this evening to be among friends and it paid off. Without saying too much, save for individual conversations before and after the meeting, I came home feeling like I had experienced something great.

Lesson learned and written into the record.  There are some things an “agree” or a “retweet” cannot replace and the term social networking, for me, needs to more explicitly imply a f2f follow-through!

An historic church building lives into the future with the past


photo Massicotte et Dignard architectes Crédit-photo: Massicotte et Dignard

Une traduction ( +/- ) suit.

That glass atrium between the church on the left and the social hall on the right was, until renovations began, an empty space most of the time – except in the weeks leading up to Christmas when a pre-fabricated wall, about half the height of the glass pictured, would be carried into place, the old door and padlock having managed to make it through another year.  Behind that wobbly wall and padlock were dozens of Christmas trees which Dad, and other men of the congregation, would sell, in the cold and damp, after a hard day’s work.  I accompanied Dad many times and I can almost recall with bodily memories the painful numbness in my feet as we sought brief shelter in the building proper from time to time.

This was Valleyfield United Church in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Québec where, when not at home, I spent a great deal of time in my youth.  The congregation left the building many years ago and since then it has been kept on life support by, among other things, a small French-language fundamentalist congregation.  Oy!

Mom was the organist for 30 years, and a mighty fine one at that, as well as the choir director which – oh well – she did what she could with whom she had to work!  The two manual pipe organ was built by the well-known Canadian firm Casavant Frères of Ste-Hyacinthe.  Serendipitously, the company is still going strong and bought the organ back to be installed elsewhere.

Built across the street from the 19th-century Montreal Cotton mill, using the same stone, the church first served Scottish Presbyterian settlers who, having named Valleyfield for a town in Scotland, put their stone masonry expertise to good use and harnessed the power of the St. Charles River which cut through the island in the St. Lawrence and which the massive cotton mill complex was built around.  When the mill was demolished in the 1970s, sending a smaller work-force out to a modern, suburban plant (which has also since closed) it was a big blow to Valleyfield’s already small English-speaking community.  In addition to political turmoil which sent many English-speaking families packing, rightly or wrongly, the changes in industry had a major impact on what was essentially a factory town – textiles, Goodyear tires, munitions, chemicals, the harbour and, oh yes, a huge Schenley’s distillery!

This beautiful building will fare better than the neighbouring Presbyterian church which, last I heard, is now an indoor rock-climbing centre!  The architect’s drawing (top) was done for MUSO, Musée de société des Deux-Rives, – (loosely translated as Museum of the People of the Two Shores) – is it any wonder “MUSO” has caught on as its name?

It is a museum which has been without a home, limited to travelling exhibits, in addition to its very well-developed web site (which will be moving eventually to a new domain).

MUSO’s directors are taking great steps to ensure that as much of the former church is preserved, including exceptionally beautiful stained-glass windows which completely surround the sanctuary.  I’m drawing on an admittedly greying memory but, other than an abstract one which is beautiful shades of rose,  high above where the organ used to be, the windows all depict scenes from biblical stories – Jesus as shepherd, the road to Damascus and I guess half a dozen others including the last one installed, the only one dedicated in my life-time, which depicts the nativity scene.  These windows are another reason, in addition to the practical use of solar power, for the new glass area.  This will allow eastern sunlight to continue to show windows so situated.

Considering this is a building which was foundational, in the best possible ways, to my youth (better than many children’s experiences elsewhere) I am delighted that it will live on in the form of this exciting museum.

I very much look forward to visiting after it has opened next year!

Map picture

photo Massicotte et Dignard architectes Crédit-photo: Massicotte et Dignard

Cet atrium de verre entre l’église sur la gauche et la salle sociaux sur le droit a été, jusqu’à début des travaux, un espace vide la plupart du temps – sauf dans les semaines précédant Noël, quand un mur pré-fabriqués, à environ la moitié de la hauteur de le verre sur la photo, serait effectué en place, la vieille porte et un cadenas avoir réussi à le faire à travers une autre année. Derrière ce mur bancal et cadenas étaient des dizaines d’arbres de Noël que Papa, et d’autres hommes de la congrégation, serait de vendre, dans le froid et humide, après une dure journée de travail. J’ai accompagné plusieurs fois papa et je peux presque rappeler des souvenirs corporelles de l’engourdissement douloureux dans les pieds que nous avons cherché un abri dans le bâtiment brève bon de temps en temps.

Ce fut l’Église Unie de Valleyfield à Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, où j’ai passé beaucoup de temps dans ma jeunesse. La congrégation a quitté le bâtiment il ya plusieurs années et depuis lors il a été maintenu en vie par, entre autres, une petite congrégation intégriste. Oy!

Maman a été l’organiste pendant 30 ans, et une fort belle à cela, ainsi que le directeur de la chorale qui – eh bien – elle faisait ce qu’elle pouvait avec qui elle avait à travailler! L’orgue à deux tuyaux d’emploi a été construit par le célèbre firme Casavant Frères de Ste-Hyacinthe. Par un heureux hasard, l’entreprise est toujours aussi fort et les props. ont acheté l’organe de retour doit être installé ailleurs.

Construit en face du moulin du 19e siècle Montreal Cotton, en utilisant la même pierre, la première église presbytérienne servi colons écossais qui, après avoir nommé Valleyfield pour une ville d’Ecosse, mettent leur expertise en maçonnerie de pierre à la bonne utilisation et exploité la puissance du rivière Saint-Charles qui traversent l’île dans le Saint-Laurent et autour qui le complexe coton massive moulin a été construit. Lorsque l’usine a été démolie dans les années 1970, l’envoi d’une petite force de travail vers une usine moderne de banlieue (qui a également fermé depuis), il a été un coup dur pour Valleyfield communauté anglophone déjà faible. En plus de l’agitation politique qui a envoyé de nombreux emballage familles anglophones, tort ou à raison, les changements dans l’industrie a eu un impact majeur sur ce qui était essentiellement une ville d’usine – textiles, les pneus Goodyear, munitions, produits chimiques, le port etc., et, oh oui, une distillerie Schenley énorme!

Ce magnifique bâtiment sera mieux que l’église presbytérienne voisins qui, la dernière que j’ai entendu, est maintenant un centre d’escalade intérieure! dessin de l’architecte (en haut) a été fait pour MUSO, Musée de société des Deux-Rives, il est pas étonnant “muso” a pris en tant que son nom?

C’est un musée qui a été sans domicile, limité à des expositions itinérantes, en plus de son site web très bien développé (qui se déplacera finalement à un nouveau domaine).

Les administrateurs de MUSO sont de prendre des mesures considérables pour s’assurer que le plus de l’ancienne église est conservée, y compris d’une beauté exceptionnelle de vitraux qui entourent complètement le sanctuaire. Je suis en s’appuyant sur une mémoire certes, mais grisonnant, autre qu’un un résumé qui est de belles nuances de rose, au-dessus de l’organe où l’habitude d’être, les fenêtres représentent des scènes de tous les récits bibliques – Jésus comme berger, le chemin de Damas et je suppose une demi-douzaine d’autres, dont le dernier est installé, le seul dédié à ma vie à temps, ce qui représente la scène de la nativité. Ces fenêtres sont une autre raison, en plus de l’utilisation pratique de l’énergie solaire, pour la région de verre neuf. Cela permettra à la lumière du soleil est de continuer à afficher les fenêtres afin situé.

Considérant ceci est un bâtiment qui a été fondamental, de la meilleure façon possible, à ma jeunesse (mieux que les expériences de nombreux enfants d’ailleurs) je suis très heureux qu’il continuera à vivre dans la forme de ce musée passionnant.

Je suis très impatient de me rendre après qu’il a ouvert l’année prochaine!

Strive to be happy


desiderata-incorrect-attribution

“The universe is unfolding as it should” came up in a discussion this evening and it reminded me of the place, literally and figuratively, “Desiderata” had in my home growing up – particularly through the 1970s.

A sheet of faux parchment paper, poster-size as above, was available wherever  Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin posters were sold such as K-mart or Woolco.  Now doesn’t “Woolco” date me?

If I’m not mistaken our copy was given to us by a dear family friend, complete with the now disproven story of its origins.

Wikipedia has a typical write-up on the piece and its time-line for anyone not wanting to dig too much deeper.

Desiderata (Latin: "desired things", plural of desideratum) is a prose poem by Indiana writer Max Ehrmann. It exhorts the reader to "be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be", and to "keep peace with your soul". "With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams," wrote Ehrmann, "it is still a beautiful world."

Our family’s copy was stuck to a small broom closet door in our kitchen-dinette, adhered on each corner by a loop of Scotch tape turned sticky side out.  It remained there beyond my leaving home, as I recall.

Nearly every time I glanced at it, at breakfast or dinner, a different phrase popped up.  I suppose this was my first meditation exercise, however unintentional.

The opening line was easy to memorize:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

I like this too:

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

A friend of mine in recent years often used the ‘vexatious’ expression:

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexatious to the spirit.

There are many other great phrases, too many to go through, but reading it again suggests to me that there are worse things I could be meditating on, should I wish to reacquaint myself with this work.

A spin-off, which has probably lost whatever shine it might have had, was a spoken word recording of Desiderata by Les Crane and choristers who repeated the “You are a child…” stanza as a refrain.

“It is still a beautiful world…strive to be happy.”
,