Wednesday, December 01, 2004


There are days when I think I've left my fundamental background and small town mentality behind and then there are days when that varmint raises its ugly head so quickly it takes a moment for me to bop it back into place!

Today was such a day.

World AIDS Day prompted the hospice where I volunteer to set up an information table at various health fairs held on campuses around the city. I said I would help at one of the larger schools that wasn't too far from my work.

When I arrived, I got the scoop on what we were to say, encourage, promote, give away, etc. from the younger woman who had the shift prior to mine. I paused at the sight of the condoms. Fortunately, I didn't gasp aloud as my former fundamentalist self might once had. I simply asked about another item on the table and then she said, "Oh, and we're supposed to point out that the mint flavored condoms are for oral sex only. The others are for intercourse."

I've worked a trade show before (sold sugar scrubs just last week to a bunch of junior leaguers and for several years, tried to sell books to booksellers who seemed to only be interested in "holy hardware"/"Jesus junk"). I've handed out flyers at many a missions fair describing the humanitarian needs of an entire population.

But I have never had to describe the differences between two particular types of condoms!

To be quite honest, I didn't have to do that today either. The college students had no hesitation about asking about the volunteer opportunities while simultaneously securing a handful of protection. They were much more interested in telling me details about lost loved ones (to the disease) than my listing the attributes of the prophylatics. And I obligingly and thankfully listened.

Listening gave me a chance to consider just how different these young adults were from the me of that age. I came to my college years having had one night of semi-drunken revelry which I immediately attoned for by "walking the aisle" and "rededicating" my life, a small number of back seat sexual close calls that weren't so close that I couldn't hold fast to my claim of virginity, and a religious background that had us debating the merits of going to the homecoming dance or not since it might cause someone to "stumble." I left that Christian college even more righteous.

So open tables of free condoms (ours wasn't the ony one) and open discussions with complete strangers regarding STDs wasn't exactly my college experience. I began to wonder if fundamentalist to secularist years aren't somewhat akin to human to dog year ratios and if I might not actually be about 20 years old in experiential counting!

But then I began to share my story . . .of what the work at the hospice meant to me, of how I'd seen the residents change from very affluent but abandoned by family to now homeless and often criminal clientele. I spoke of how the facility had changed, of all I'd learned. I even got into a lengthy discussion with a fellow volunteer about the spectrum of how churches respond to homosexuality and was able to assure him that while his personal experience might not yet support it (his born again partner of 18 years had recently given up the relationship because he could no longer endure the guilt) there were believers who would embrace him as is.

And soon, I felt like the wise, welcoming, and -- if I might be so bold and alliterate -- wonderful woman I know myself to be . . . safe and secure from all alarms.

No comments: