And so, as smokers usually do, we find each other at the meeting post (outside near a butt-post somewhere, you stand there looking stupid, sucking on a cancer stick..as people pass you by giving you “that look”.) Those of us that still smoke, know that feeling and that look. Invarably, someone else will come along, with that “thank God I’m not the only one” look and so you strike up your match or lighter and then you strike up a conversation.
Such was the case when I met Andrew:
Andrew Faiz, Managing Editor of Presbyterian Record Andrew is also a writer, producer and filmmaker (Flemingdon Park: The Global Village, 2002).
As I told you before, the qustion that connected us all there was: “what brings you here? what is your interest in this issue?” And you tell your story or you listen to someone else’s.
Andrew asked me that question, and I told him that I was there because I was living with the virus. God knows what else I said to him, because before you know it, I find out that he is a writer for some organization or magazine, or whatever the heck, and I am like “oh lord, here we go”..I know at some point, he is going to write a little blurb about me. No, no, no….I don’t think that it is all about me, but yet, in some way, it IS all about me. It is about me being used by God to help others rise above the stigma and discrimination brought about by this disease.
I have been written about before (Christianity Today), and while it was a great article, the journalist created a picture of me that was not completely true, and so I have since become very leary of folks wanting to write about me. Not that I think that my story will put a pay your mortgage or anything like that. But I do worry about my son or my son’s friends reading something about me that is taken out of context.
I did not go to Toronto initially to put myself “out there”. I came to enjoy myself, to rest from my internship, to take a break before classes begin in September. But, the Holy Spirit never rests, never takes a break, and before you know it, I found myself (not of my own accord) attending workshops that dealt primarily with stigma, discrimination and religious leaders speaking out. I found myself being touched by Pastor Canon Gideon’s story and Reverend Patrica Sawo’s story. After sharing in a workshop, I was asked to think about doing an interview with the ELCA.
I am on pins and needles waiting for that interview to be published (the one from the ELCA, because it is my church’s headquarters). We will see what the church is made of, whether they will truly accept me for who I am, or will they try and “define” who I am by my status. It really doesn’t matter. I mean, I would love to be called to a congregation and not worry about my future. But I will love it even more, if putting my face to this issue, will empower more to come out of the shadows and put an end to not only the stigma that society puts on us, but the stigma that we put on ourselves.
So, Andrew. I look forward to your article! I thank God for meeting you. Thank you for finding me interesting enough to spread the word and to share my story. I pray that your writing is spirit-led and that you continue to be passionate about society’s response (or lack thereof) to issues that relate to our humanity towards one another.
Let the people of God say: Amen.