Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Beauty of Lunch

Lunch. For 8 years in grammar school I had it at 12 noon sharp. We would file in, sit down, eat and laugh.  In high school, I had it at 12:25pm, and the discussions centered on sports, class work, and how people were going to get home. In college, lunch become a matter of convenience -whenever or where ever best fit the schedule. However, lunch time now has taken on a new meaning. It is a time to learn, listen, and attempt the process of understanding.

For starters, the lunch room at Project Open Hand and its atmosphere is a prime example of what one of my mentors would call "a beautiful thing". But how should it be classified or described? Everyone, including staff, volunteers from all different origins (developmentally disabled, retirees, college students, and people who are HIV positive), and administrators, comes together in the same room to break bread and discuss whatever topics that come to mind; what is the mayor doing? did you catch the Raiders game? how is so and so?. Furthermore, all the food choices are the exact same as those provided as meals for the "clients". Is this a small window into Marxist communism where class is not an issue and just the good of the whole prevails? Is this what politicos call an egalitarian society where everyone comes to the table with the same respect, rights, and dignity? Perhaps, it's the best example of the Christian moral doctrine that stresses how each of us is made in God's own image and therefore are united, equal, and together in solidarity. 

My lunch conversations are where a great deal of my understanding about how HIV, both past and present, has impacted the lives of those in this city. For instance, a simple question "how did you guys hear about this place?" led me into a world I had never really attempted to place myself into. All three men at the table had lost a partner to AIDS, and all three men recounted the pain and sorrow of watching a loved one pass with an inability to help. They spoke of a time where HIV was still horribly misunderstood and long term treatment was not an option. One recalled the plight of his partner and simply stated, "I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy". They then recounted how being a caregiver consumed their lives as their partners worsened. One was lucky enough to stumble onto a simple support group for AIDS Caregivers run by a Jesuit who had left the society. He spoke of the group as a life line that granted him a peace of mind and de-stressed his daily routine. This conversation lasted less than 10 minutes, but it put on display the impact this disease has had on this community and the toll it has taken on the psyche of homosexual men in San Francisco.


Graham said...

Sounds like you have found an organization that would make most hospitals blush at the level of personal care provided. Does the city/county/state/federal gov'ts provide grants or aid to Open Hands or is it 100% volunteer driven and funded? What kind of support have you seen from patients/clients family members? Being that HIV is such a stigmatized disease, as ya'll were talking about at lunch, where are people seeking out support if they cannot find what they need within their familes?
P.S. Those pictures of food make me realy hungry.

Marco Ambrosio said...

Hey Graham,

The majority of their funding is from private corporate donations (the largest being from MAC cosmetics), an annual dinner fundraiser, and then gov't funding. However the govt funding has decreased over the years and that was one of the reasons they expanded to their clients to incorporate breast cancer.

In regards to support, they are a plethora of NGOs, NPOs, and foundations here that run all kinds of support groups. It really is amazing the amount of organizations here geared towards HIV. My first interview heavily discusses the benefits of living as HIV+ in SF and how people who are + move out here for access to great treatment and support.

Hope texas is warmer than here,