Thursday, September 25, 2008

No Man's Land

A Quaker gay man and an Evangelical full-time mother and wife make strange bed fellows. I’ve know Brad for a long time. We have worked together, on and off since 2002, raising awareness in the Western Suburbs of Chicago in the fight against HIV and AIDS. On paper Brad and I really should not be friends.

Yet, this hot September morning found us walking in stride together along the lakefront. Last Saturday was the annual AIDS Foundation of Chicago AIDS Walk/Run. This was the first year I participated in the walk and I was struck by the diversity in the crowd. Over 7000 people gathered in Grant Park and either ran or walked the 5K around the Field Museum campus and lakefront.

While pinning on my number I observed many walks of life; from the respected South Side Pastor and his congregation, to the pack of Loyola students complete with cheerleader and megaphone, to the gay and lesbian couples, to the families with strollers. All ages. All races. All lifestyles.

I hadn’t seen Brad in a long time and I was interested to catch up with him and his life. We settled into a nice stride with Lake Michigan on our right and the sun beating down. Recently, we had both gone through transitions in our lives around our efforts at raising awareness of HIV and AIDS.

As we talked, I reflected, “I often feel like I’m in No Man’s Land. My faith community--well, nobody really knows what to do with me. I’m an evangelical and suburban mom. Liberals would laugh if I considered myself liberal and Conservatives won’t own me either. I’m just sort of out here on my own.”

Brad reflected a similar sentiment. You see, Brad is a truth-teller. I have always respected that about Brad. The fight against HIV and AIDS should not be polarizing or part of political games, and ever since I’ve known Brad he has been willing to be in No Man’s Land. Working gracefully with all different kinds of people; even people who disagree with his lifestyle. Speaking against both sides, any side, where ignorance, irresponsibility and injustice loom; especially into his own communities of friends and faith.

Brad is planning a prayer breakfast in Dupage County on December 1st in honor of World AIDS Day. He is building the content of the morning around the idea we all tend to put ourselves in buckets. We separate from one another based on many things. Brad’s vision is to see all people, all faith communities, dump out their buckets into one big pile and start working together to eradicate the spread of HIV and AIDS.

I found our walk and talk very encouraging; a divine appointment if I may be so bold. Sometimes it’s lonely and confusing to be in No Man’s Land; to not be firmly situated in a bucket of ideology and opinion. But maybe free-agents are needed after all? To wander around and push on buckets, expand understanding, ask honest questions, and seek real answers.

Because in the long run, the fight against HIV and AIDS is not a 5K on a lovely morning, rather, it’s a grueling global Marathon and we have all just started.