In a very real way I have had the above experience when I was pushed out of my comfort zone some thirty years ago. Having been in the center of the AIDS epidemic in West Hollywood, I lost as others did to, many of my closest friends. I had missed the bullet as a gay man and I quickly became a caregiver to first my friends, and then to total strangers.
I became a warrior almost overnight. I had no choice as everyone knew someone who was struggling and most often dying alone in their once beautiful apartments. It wasn’t long after in the middle 90’s that the virus stopped being the death sentence that it was in the eighties. I had more time for my life, but as I progressed in yet another career, I noticed a vacancy in my heart. That vacancy which had been filled to overflow with the love that I had received from those that allowed me to be in their lives for the little time they had left, was missing.
One day I was stuck in my car in a traffic pile up. Just before I started to react in anger at “MY” situation, I noticed a pile of what looked to be some bodies laundry on the island that separated the lanes of traffic. I saw movement in it and soon a face emerged and as if he had been waiting for me, a man emerged dressed in rags and walked very deliberately towards my car.
He stopped at my open window and just looked at me with tired eyes. At that moment something inside of me shifted and a great weight was taken from me. I looked around my car and discovered a protein bar and a bottle of unopened water in the glove box. I gave these to him along with a handful of change. No words were exchanged but I’d like to think that his eyes were smiling back in mine.
A Volunteer for Life.