Near the beginning of my service at JASMYN, I was trained in HIV testing and counseling. The first time a test came back reactive, my stomach dropped. You have to wait fifteen minutes before you give the result, so the result comes back before you can tell the client. I had to spend 10 minutes making small talk and filling out paperwork, all the while knowing this person’s life was about to change. Would they consider it a death sentence? Many still do, even though medications allow those living with HIV to live a nearly normal life, in span and in quality.
After fifteen minutes, I took a deep breath. I looked my client in the eye and said, “This test came back reactive. I’m going to give you some space—” I couldn’t even finish the sentence before they started screaming. Luckily, a JASMYN staff member came in the room to offer support, and we were able to comfort them and encourage them together.
At JASMYN, I’ve seen the worst of humanity. I’ve seen the consequences of everyday hatred and cruelty. I’ve seen people at the lowest point of their lives. I’ve met young people spurned by so-called loved ones. At times, all of this can lay a bit heavy on my mind; it leaves me questioning what the point of all this is if people are just going to treat each other badly, if people are still going to suffer from hunger and hopelessness and disease. In the midst of a pandemic, I feel that way more than ever.
So what do we do when we’re not even sure if humanity is worth our efforts to save it?
I remind myself I’ve also seen the best of humanity. I’ve met people who dedicate their lives to helping others. My NHC Florida AmeriCorps cohort is full of bright, young people who I believe are going to change the world for the better. I’ve seen an outpouring of love from JASMYN staff members and community members toward young people who so desperately need it. And I’ve discovered wells of strength, resilience, and compassion inside myself that I didn’t even know existed.
For example, this photo depicts a group of National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps members laying down sod for a future family with Habitat for Humanity. Because of their service, a family can now have a nice yard for their new home. It’s this dedication to serving those less fortunate than them that make my fellow AmeriCorps members so exceptional.
My service has taught me to focus on humanity’s light rather than the darkness. In the end, I believe those fighting the good fight say more about us than those who don’t. I think most people are just doing the best they can with what they have. I believe that humanity’s darkness won’t win. If you’d ask the client I spoke about above, maybe they’d agree with me; because of JASMYN, they are on medication and they are doing well.