Thursday, October 27, 2005

Paving The Way

Day Thirteen

October 27, 2005

Dear Friends,

It’s day thirteen.  We are spending the night at a Church of the Nazarene camp in Cecil County, Maryland, about 14 miles over the state line from Delaware.  Our day ended with a candle light vigil, after which we built a beautiful bonfire and roasted marshmallows.  It was everything one could want from a bonfire.  

The wood was wet so getting the fire started was a challenge that required teamwork.  Then there was teaching those who had never roasted marshmallows before the ritual of trimming the right branch, spearing the marshmallow, and roasting it to a golden brown.  And there was the side splitting laughter, and even a squabble or two. As a write this, a handful of people are still sitting outside, enjoying the fire’s warmth and each other’s company.  

We started out at 10:00 am this morning where we had left off yesterday, a couple of hundred yards from the state line.  Enhanced by a bus from New York City, we had about 40 marchers today.  So we were feeling quite enthusiastic.

We were met at the state line by Ed and Kevin and Virginia, the three members of the Cecil County AIDS Support Group.  Ed proudly accepted the Maryland flag, and took his place at the head of our process, right behind the American flag and right beside Susan, our Delaware host, who was carrying the Delaware flag.  

The entire day consisted of marching up and down rolling hills, watching out for gravel trucks, and stopping every few miles for rest breaks scheduled by Susan, Ed, Kevin and Virginia, at various locations that offered friendly restrooms.  For lunch, Susan surprised us with fried chicken and potato salad.

We met few people along the way, but there were many friendly vehicles, honking support as they passed us.  Laverne flyered almost every business and home along the route.  I say “almost every” because her husband Cameron called her back went she started to go up to a store that had three confederate flags flying out front.  Laverne said she thought she could have gotten some money out of them for the Campaign.

We halted our march almost exactly four miles from the Susquehanna River, at about 5:00pm.  By 5:30, the folk who had come down for the day were safely headed back to New York, and we were being shown our rooms on the campground.  Not only do we have showers, but we are sleeping on beds. Most of us have not seen a bed since the morning of October 15, so this is a real treat.  Also, the rooms have heat, something we hadn’t been on our priority list when we were scheduling the caravan to travel through in September.  

At dinner, we met Melissa, the only AIDS staffer with the County Health Department.  She did much of the work arranging our stay in Cecil County, and had enlisted the AIDS of the local support group.  Ed and Kevin talked with us about what it is like to be living as a gay, HIV-positive couple in a conservative rural community.  The talked about the difficulty they had experienced finding support, and of the isolation that most people living with AIDS in rural places experience.  Their story included harassment by others.  They had been proud to help get a story about C2EA in the county paper, but did not dare use their full names.  They have already had all of their tires slashed once.

After dinner, we unloaded the truck, and went back outside the main hall for the candle-light vigil.  We were joined by about a half dozen more local folk.  After lighting the candles, a couple of people offered prayers, and a few others offered thoughts and reflections.  I couldn’t help but think about what a motley crew we were standing their, and yet such a beautiful collection of friends and comrades in arms.  

This pilgrimage hasn’t been without its tensions and craziness.  But the bond is so much deeper than any differences, even among people who have only just met.  I have to believe that movements that change the world are built on exactly this kind of love and loyalty, faithfulness to each other that transcends barriers or differences.

While I was helping to build the fire, I got a call from Larry Bryant, traveling with the Soul of the South Caravan.  He told me that he had picked up Gabriel and Gabriel’s mother in Biloxi and that the Caravan had been given a great reception in Mobile.   Gabriel is my buddy.  He is three years old, and he is coming to Washington to demand care for his mama.  I can’t wait to see Gabriel in D.C.


Charles King  


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