This is why we do what we do
I recently sat with Genevieve, a 17-year-old girl living with HIV/AIDS. At first glance, it is difficult to see anything other than disease. Her body has wasted away to little more than a skeletal frame. For as long as she remembers, Genevieve has been sick. Her childhood was filled with clinic visits and taking numerous medications—morning and night, day after day.
Genevieve quietly says that she never met her father, and her mother died of AIDS when she was still little. She explains, “It is hard for me to still remember her.” Genevieve and her brother have grown up, like so many orphans in Africa, under the care of their elderly grandmother.
Genevieve loves school and has struggled to stay in it, reaching Form 3 this year (her junior year of high school). She tells me, “I had wanted to become an airhostess (flight attendant) one day.”
There are so many obstacles to her living, to her dreaming; and yet, there is a light that remains within her eyes. Genevieve teaches me, once more, that there are spaces of the soul that cannot be infected with AIDS. Somehow, against all odds, she still has hope.
I say to her what I believe our actions have already confirmed: “Genevieve, we love you.”
Without hesitation, she responds: “Oh yes, I know.”
She reminds me of the poignant words of Jean Vanier: “their beauty is their littleness and their greatness is a cry, a revelation of tenderness at the heart of creation.”