Posted by: MC | December 10, 2012

Today’s December 10

sunset 12-10-12 mmc

It’s the end of the day, and unlike most days between November and July the sky outside my window is vivid with sunset colors – you know those indescribable shades of pink and purple, hints of orange, red, yellow, even bits of green.  I’m in Portland, OR where I live and work – and walk and dance and chit chat with neighbors and laugh and cry with friends.  Today I’ve done all of that.  I’ve heard of serious disease, of legal challenges, of investment considerations and retirement plans.  I’ve heard of embarrassment and shoe repair, of aging relatives and struggles to find a safe night’s sleep.  That last part came from the voice of a young woman outside a coffee shop downtown.  She had a sign explaining her pan handling goal for the day — $17 to pay for a place to stay the night.

People wake up and live these things every day.

Last Friday, I spent the morning with my friend Paris Mullen.  Paris has to be the singularly most beautiful looking man I know.  The most amazing thing is that he has a heart to match – and a mind that is ready to do his wise and generous heart’s bidding.  A modest and brilliant Adonis.  No kidding.

Paris and I met for the first time on March 30 or 31 in 2009.  We were both in a coffee shop in Seattle and almost no one else was, so I started up a conversation and Paris became Voice86 in the 100 VOICES book.  His effect has shown up again in this blog (EX:C blog, “Spirit and faith” 4-19-2010). 

So, here’s maybe the coolest thing about Friday – before that day, Paris and I hadn’t seen one another since we met – over 3 ½ years, but you’d think we’d been closest friends for a lifetime.  That’s some precious stuff!Paris --

I’d written email to ask if he would be in Portland any time soon, and if so, would he read his chapter for one of the last podcasts.  We talked by phone, he said he needed a post-GRE break and was driving south.  So we met up at the Pagatim studio – Alex, the producer, joined us; Paris read his chapter and then, Paris on the blue mic and me on the red mic, we chatted about the changes and stabilities since his first interview on change.  I’m leaving the details for the podcast – and I promise you won’t be disappointed.  There is SO MUCH to learn from listening and Paris is a man who teaches simply in the way he lives.

It was raining Friday, but we walked around the city nonetheless talking about family and dreams.  We’re both one of four kids, his family all boys, mine all girls.  We’re both preacher’s kids.  And we both have powerful career passion for addressing the systems and mindsets that oppress and stigmatize people.  Paris is a gay black man.  I’m a straight white woman.  Paris listens.  I listen.

Paris gives a lot of his life energy to public health research and policy development in support of people from historically marginalized groups who also live with HIV.  He’s preparing for graduate study and keeping his eye out for the programs serving people with HIV who have little financial access.  He’s looking in Seattle, where he lives, and anywhere else.  I told him of the Quest Center – the place my friend Lusijah Marx directs and helped to get started 25 years ago when the AIDS epidemic first hit public consciousness.

Quest is the integrated health center I wrote about a few weeks ago (EX:C blog, “Amidst the full about Mexican immigration and gay marriage”).  So, as part of our walk in the rain, I took Paris by Quest where, by amazing luck Lusijah was in the lobby and available for a brief chat.  Sitting in the room while the two of them talked, was an inspiration all by itself.  When Paris asked what Quest does to support clients for facing the stigma they will surely experience in the everyday world, Lusijah said, “We take them into the beauty of who they are.  We help them find the images and understandings deep within them that remind them of their essential worth, beauty and strength.  We keep going there over and over so that at some point, the negative attitudes that come toward them from the outside are of little interest, or at least they’re less harmful because each of our clients learns of her or his beauty in ways that can’t be hurt or stolen because it just is.”

Today, every day, there are people who still live all sides of the AIDS epidemic, too.

So, as I walked through my December 10 this year I heard voices of privilege, voices of struggle and voices competence, some all in the same person.  We meet, we live here on the same Earth, and we have the choice of listening or not, sharing or not.

Back in podcast land, we also put Chapter 7 – VOICES OF THE SOUTHEAST – up on Friday.  In the Carolinas, Virginia and DC I heard a union leader, a carpenter turned accountant, a Presbyterian minister for a church blocks from the Capital, and a former student of mine who seeks out gifted homeless youth to support through high school and college.  Each of these voices, like the people I listened to today, like Paris, like me and all of you reading, each and all of us live the dailyness of our lives and in them we listen or we don’t, we share or we don’t.

Seems to me there’s more and more sharing going on.  It’s never too late to join in.

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