Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Paving The Way

Day Eleven

October 25, 2005

Dear Friends,

I am exhausted.  I just pulled off my wet shoes, socks and jeans.  Maybe by morning I will have worked the chill out of my bones.  But it is day eleven on the road and it is still all good.

Amos woke me up at 5:00am this morning.  Instead of turning on the lights, he gently tapped everyone and quietly let us know it was time to get up.  No time even for a sink bath this morning.  Instead it was brush your teeth, grab a cup of coffee, a donut and a couple of apples, and load up the truck.  (Can I just say that I have had about enough of apples?  Everywhere we go, kind and loving people give us bushels of apples - Granny Smith, Cortland, Delicious – I have been eating three apples a day for the last ten days.  Why couldn’t we have marched during peach or cherry season?)

By 7:00am the truck was loaded, and by 7:15am we were in formation, ready to march.  We even had a new flag at the ready for when we hit the Delaware border.  It had been raining all night, the temperature hovering just below 50 degrees, and no letup in sight.  It was surreal marching through industrial wasteland in the early morning rain, surrounded by tall chimneys shooting flames burning excess gas.  We chanted and sang just to keep our spirits up.  

Susan and another volunteer met us at the border at 8:45am.  We unfurled the flag and felt a brief moment of exhilaration before beginning the search for a friendly restroom.  By noon, we had marched nearly ten miles straight, coming into Wilmington with only one pee pee break.  Just outside of the downtown, we were met on the corner by residents and staff from the local AIDS hospice.  Others were slowly making their way down the hill.  We sang together, and did some of our best chants.  It was another reminder of why we are marching.

The folk at the hospice inspired us to carry it on home to the First and Central Presbyterian Church downtown.  As we turned the corner, people came pouring out of the church, cheering us up the last hill.  The rally that followed was great.  The mayor spoke, as did a state senator who has been the key proponent of legal needle exchange.  Clearly a lot of effort had been made to make this a great event.  Then came lunch… and another five miles to march.

The rain had not let up.  If anything, the temperature had dropped, and most of us were already soaked, notwithstanding our rain gear.  At one point, there were only ten people marching, with another ten or so riding in the vans.  It was just enough to have one person for each flag, two for the banner, and three marshals.  To make matters worse, the Township of Elmsmere did not want us at all.  It took the intention of the State Senator to get us permission to walk on the sidewalk, with traffic, and no bullhorns.  Yes, it was another reason to march.

This evening, we had just finished dinner and our time of sharing.  Our Delaware hosts had promised us an evening of pampering and set everyone up to soak their feet.  A forty year-old man came in.  Richard had seen the C2EA signs and asked if there was someone he could talk with about AIDS.  He and I went off into a corner and talked.  He said he was newly diagnosed and that he was still trying to deal with his diagnosis and its implications for himself, his wife and his children.  He said he had six kids.  As a lay minister, he also had not yet figured out how to face his church.

The conversation was part AIDS 101 and part spiritual.  We had just finished praying together when the custodian came over to inform us that everyone else had already left the building and that he was locking up.  We hugged and said goodbye in the rain on the street.

Tomorrow we get up at 5:00am again, sixteen miles with another rally thrown in.  More rain is the forecast.  I can already feel the wet bone-chilling cold.  It’s still all good.

Love,

Charles King













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