I remember the day when it hit me. I taught women’s health classes at a shelter and we were going to cover sexually transmitted diseases that evening. There I stood, looking out at ten women who were looking back expecting me to lecture them, judge them and then ignore them.
If I could…I'd protect you from the sadness in your eyes…give you courage in a world of compromise. Yes I would, if I could. I would teach you all the things I've never learned and I'd help you cross the bridges that I've burned.
Yes I would, if I could.
My mind scrambled and I was, in an instant, filled with a frustrated rage. I didn’t want this…I thought. I don’t need this shit…my heart screamed. I can’t handle this responsibility and what if I fuck this shit up and oh God please let them listen, let them listen, let them listen and then understand that more than anything I want them to live and prosper and be happy.
I would try to shield your innocence from time, but the part of life I gave you isn't mine. I've watched you grow so I could let you go. If I could, I would help you make it through the hungry years. But I know that I can never cry your tears.That’s when it sunk in that I wasn’t in control of their lives. They weren’t a project I was going to be graded on. In that moment my students became my sisters. The rage shifted to fear and, in a flash, fear shifted into a determined concern.
But I would, if I could.
My generation grew up with words like HIV and AIDS in our vocabulary. I vividly recall watching reports and seeing images…the fear, misinformation and bigotry that took over…then the ignorance and lack of compassion…and always the self righteous judgment and careless disregard. Now, so many years later, the young women who sat before me represented an emerging demographic at risk and it felt like another case of history repeating.
I live in a time and place where you don't want to be. You don't have to walk along this road with me. My yesterday won't have to be your way.
Would they know the same fear or face the same lack of resources and information our generation did? Would they be victims of the abortion debate, denied knowledge for ‘their own good’ refused prevention for the ‘sake of their souls’ then denied treatment to ‘punish their sins’?
Are the wages of being born young, black and poor still hunger, illness and death?
If I knew, how I'd try to change the world I brought you to. And there isn't very much that I can do. But I would, if I could.I wanted them to know how much I want a better world for us all. I want to wake up tomorrow, turn on the news and hear that war is over…hunger is at an end…and AIDS has been cured at last.
If I could, I would try to shield your innocence from time. But that part of life I gave you isn't mine. I watched you grow so I could let you go.So, there I stood looking out at ten women who were looking back expecting me to lecture them, judge them and then ignore them.
If I could, I would help you make it through those hungry years. But I know that I can never cry your tears. But I would, if I could.
They were my students and my sisters in the struggle…mothers and daughters and cousins and friends…and I spoke to them as such.
Yes I would.“Today we’re going to talk about sex, and your body and your health.”
Oh yes I would.“We are in this together.”
If I could.“Shall we begin…?”
Every day is World AIDS Day until we have a day without AIDS.