a person hands a homeless man a bottle of water

Humanity and Ignorance

Merriam-Webster defines Humanity as:

  1. Compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition: the quality or state of being humane and 2. the quality or state of being human.

It also defines a Human as:

  1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of humans
  2. Consisting of or involving humans
  3. As having human form or attributes and a representative of or susceptible to the sympathies and frailties of human nature.

So, how did we lose our humanity?

Living with HIV for a long time

My wife and I, as of February 2023, have been living with HIV for 23 years. That’s 2 decades. And, in these 2 decades, we are still seeing the ignorance that people still have concerning this virus.

For years, ignorance has kept HIV in a morality box, a poster child as the gay disease; a punishment handed down by God for the transgressions of the lowest of the low; the scourge of society.

But, we never thought or figured that it could very easily happen to us. Unprotected sex, using a tainted needle for drugs, infected blood transfusion, a mother caring for a child unknowingly also caring about the virus.

We have forgotten to be kind

Somewhere in there, we’ve forgotten about the humanity behind the virus. If you take away all of the agendas, all of labels, tags, brands, and pomp and circumstance – just uncover it all. There is a human being under there crying out for help.

There’s somebody’s child (daughter, son), somebody's parent (mother, father). Somebody's sister, brother. Somebody's wife and/or husband. When will we stop and think – this could be me.

As a Chef, I’ve fed hundreds upon hundreds of homeless people. I’ve looked into their eyes, seen how they dressed, listen to their stories of where they came from, how they got where they are; how, for many, were incarcerated but when they got out their families didn’t want anything to do with them. I’ve seen the anger, frustration, helplessness, and hopelessness.

But, behind all of that, there is a human being in there. Again, there’s somebody’s child, somebody's parent, somebody's sister, or brother. Somebody's wife and/or husband. How dare I look down on God’s creation and not want to help, lend a hand, or buy a meal?

Stigma still exists

I’ve seen a lot over these past few decades living with HIV. Some experiences have been good, some bad and some, there was a lot of ugly. I’ve been treated sometimes good, sometimes badly, and sometimes a lot ugly because of my HIV status. Loss of extended family, friends, finances, and self-value, and I almost lost the love of my life, my wife.

Until I found people who looked behind the condition and saw my humanity and extended a hand to help me up. That’s when I stopped seeing myself as a victim, not of HIV but of societal ignorance of the virus.

My dad used to always make a statement that I’ll never forget and have used quite often and that is; "Never look down on a man unless you’re picking him up!" So, I challenge you, yes you, the one reading this conversation.

The next time you look at yourself in the mirror or see a homeless person on that corner you pass every day or when someone looks sideways at you because they know your status. Look behind all the façade and see the humanity in them.

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