I'd wanted to get to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for quite some time and we were able to spend some quality time there. Although I was born just a few years after his assassination, I know much of what he did in his three short years as President shaped the politics of the world in which I grew up. For example, his stance against the Russians and everyone's wacky Cuban uncle, Papa Fidel, ensured there would be a world for me to be born into. It's chilling just how close to the brink we were during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wow, just wow. One of the cool things about the museum is the placement of many of Mr. Kennedy's quotes on the walls. The following, from his Inaugural Address in 1961, struck me:
If a free society cannot help the many who are poor,
it cannot save the few who are rich.
Those words were spoken more than fifty years ago and resound even more powerfully today. The chasm of poverty, intolerance, and unkindness that divides our society grows ever larger. It is a gross irony that our country will wrap itself in hysterics over a fundamentalist family that excuses molestation in its own ranks but demands death sentences for others accused similarly but we as a nation forget, or worse ignore, the plight of those in our own neighborhoods who go hungry nightly, or are marginalized because they can't afford medical care, or are kicked to the curb for any manner of 'offenses.'
We spent some time this afternoon with a few folks who have been marginalized and it was a profound reminder of how easy, and rewarding, it is to help our fellow man. The stunningly patient SML and I joined a few of the young people from Church that we work with at a shared residence in Hartford called Peter's Retreat. We had the chance to make dinner for the residents and, in a nod to our Catholic friends, throw down a few rousing games of Bingo. The residents, most of whom are living with HIV/AIDS, have been given the chance to get off the streets and get the care they need in a safe environment. It was a simple dinner of burgers and dogs and the usual accouterment but what was more valuable than the meal was the time together. It was great to sit with the residents and see how this place has impacted them for the better. Much of what is done at this place is volunteer-driven and I realized if I could have just recorded some of the laughter we heard and the thank you's and hugs that were shared, how much easier it would be to get people to share of their time here and places like it.
I can remember when AIDS was a death sentence and the mere mention of it struck fear into any and all who heard it. No more and we saw that today. One of the other 'adults' in our group brought two of his children and they were active participants and to see them embracing people afflicted with HIV/AIDS with no fear (and why shouldn't they?) was beautiful. They simply saw them for who they are - people, their brothers and sisters really.
After all, that's what we are. Brothers and sisters. Our lives are made better as we do something good for one another. A simple act of kindness can make all the difference in someone else's life. Do something good.