As we cope with the pandemic, I thought I would share with you some of the lessons I learned living through the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. Like most gay men of my generation, I was greatly impacted by that awful disease, losing friends and a partner/husband. It was a terrible time, but I am a better man for having survived it. There is much that we can do to ease our way through this.
It is vital that we stay close to the people we love. Friends and family help us through these difficult times of our lives. When times are easy, we tend to take them for granted. But, when times are hard, we can be lost without them. This virus is changing how we interact, but it does not need to interfere with these relationships. Phone calls, texting, and video chats can all help us to stay connected.
It can be very hard to find and maintain balance. It is easy to get lost in fear when it seems like we are surrounded by the unknown. It can help to find gratitude, to “count our blessings.” In the worst of times, there is always something to be grateful for. Do those things that make you glad and let yourself forget, if only for a short while, that times are tough.
Finding ways to help others gives us strength. It is no coincidence that my career in nonprofit work began in 1994. I needed to make a difference, to help others. Doing so added to my sense of worth and brought me a measure of joy to balance the sadness. I am now deeply grateful to have had such a fulfilling career.
I was very challenged to keep hope alive but learned that I must. People counted on me. I could not let them down. Over time hope became a habit and grew into a deep and abiding faith that it will all work out.
We will get through this pandemic. Working together, helping each other, we will face and overcome our fears. We will get to the other side of this. And, in time, we will be better for it.
Stay safe, be strong, love deeply,
Andrew L. Estep
WSPTA Executive Director