Public Service

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Lest we forget

AIDS is a strange disease isn’t it? It descended on the world and took so many lives back in the eighties. Many of us watched as friends died a horrible and painful death. We did not stand by quietly. Some of us stood up and marched to fight for money for new drugs. Some of us stood up and fought to teach people about prevention and what could be done to stop the spread of AIDS. Some of us stood up to stop the discrimination that went with AIDS. And some of us stood up to help people living with AIDS. Ron Farha was one of those people. With the help of his family and those in the community he started the Farha Foundation to help people less fortunate than he was so that they could live out the end of their lives in as comfortable and humane a way as possible. He did whatever he could and did not stop until he had no choice and physically he could do no more. His short-term dream was to be able to help others; his long-term dream was of course to see the end of this horrible plague.

When Ron died, there were not the drugs and organizations to help people that there are today. AIDS was a death sentence. Period. It pushed people like Ron and his family, and many others to face things they did not want to face. It taught people about life as much as it taught people about death. It separated some families and it brought others closer together. Through the constant battles with governments, pharmaceutical companies, and with the help of the medical community, our society was able to change and grow to not only help the individual living with AIDS, but to build a structure and community of organizations that now deal with prevention and long term care. Ron’s dream to help has in many ways come true, but it does not mean we can stop the work that he started.

The war of AIDS is not over. If anything, the war is getting worse. Lest we forget is a phrase that comes from a war where hundreds of thousands died. Today we are fighting a different war, a war that has claimed over 20 million souls since 1981. Lest we forget why Ron started the Farha Foundation. Lest we forget that people are still becoming HIV+ every day. Lest we forget that this war is not over. If anything, the battlefield has only grown larger as the disease has spread across the world. Most important of all, lest we forget that we can make a difference.
Today, Sunday, September 18, 2011 is ÇA MARCHE, the AIDS walk in Montreal and it starts in a few hours in Parc Emlie-Gamelin. For any of you who knew Ron, I ask you to stop for a minute, just one minute at 10:30 when the walk starts and there is a moment of silence and remember him and all the others that have fought for this cause and for all those that have died from this disease. For any of you like me, who didn’t know Ron, take that same minute to be thankful for a man who has helped so many in our community, and again, remember those we have lost.

Then, let us all take another minute to take a step to do something in this fight against AIDS, for it is a fight that we have yet to win. Talk about this disease openly and honestly, protect yourselves always, and let Ron by your inspiration, as he has been mine, and do something to prevent this preventable disease. It is not too late to come and walk with us today.
For more information on the Foundation that Ron created or to make a donation, click here: Farha Foundation

Take Action and Inspire Change

Take Action! Inspire Change is the theme this year of the 2nd annual Nelson Mandela International Day. This Day is to honour Mr. Mandela and celebrate his achievements towards a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa, his dedication to the service of humanity in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities. In November 2009 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed July 18th as “Nelson Mandela International Day” to be celebrated each year. It is the first time that the UN has dedicated an International Day to an individual.

It is only 67 minutes out of your whole life

Now here is what we all are being asked to do to celebrate: perform 67 minutes of public service – one minute for every year of the South African leader’s own service to humanity.
They are not asking a lot, or are they? I find it interesting that we need to be asked to perform public service as if it is not something that we would think about it on our own. I am thinking I better put it in my to-do list to make sure that I don’t forget, and that I allow for the whole 67 minutes. Is this not something that I should be doing each day? That is too much time I hear some of you say? Is it?
Forget about how much time it is, what exactly does it mean, perform public service. When I read this I sat there dumbfounded. What could I do this Monday for 67 minutes to help others? I thought about my day and all that I had already planned and thought: “It is just symbolic, I don’t really have to do 67 minutes of service. I do a lot all the time.” Do I? Do I do enough?

What is enough?

I think of Mr. Mandela and wonder if he ever thought: “I have done enough.” He is human after all. If he thought that way I am wondering if he would have accomplished all he did in the fight for freedom, justice and democracy.
After I decided I was going to fit in those 67 minutes I couldn’t figure out what I would do. I sat there staring at the screen thinking, I could not come up with one thing to do,
“What can I do to perform service? I don’t have a project going on, there is no event coming up that I am involved with right now?”
Here I am, someone that truly does believe that if each of us does our part we can affect change in our world, and to me ‘our world’ is what is around us, the same way I am sure Mr. Mandela was thinking of ‘his world’ as he fought for human rights.

67 Ways to Change Our World

Thankfully these days we don’t need to look very far for answers to anything and the answer to how I could spend those 67 minutes found me in a blog post. I don’t think I could come up with a better list than these 67 suggestions from Natalie Govender in her blog on HUDDLEMIND: 67 Ways To Change Our World (posted on July 15th, 2011).

Here is what I am going to do

I am going to make Monday not about ME. I am going to do all those things that I say I am going to do for others that day, those small things, those things that I don’t think matter, that matter to those I do them for. Then I am going to move forward on two projects that I have started – one on meditation and one for the homeless.

What are you going to do to celebrate?

Is it going to be doing the dishes or taking out the garbage?
Is it calling that friend who is going through a rough time and you just don’t want to hear about it?
Is it finally calling that charity to offer to volunteer.
Is it making a donation?
Is it making a conscious decision to speak up for something you believe in?
Is it simply remembering: that giving is doing service and we are able to do that in each of our daily actions no matter how big or small those actions may be.
 Now, what I would love to hear is what YOU are going to do on Monday, July 18th to celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day. I have made the commitment, now it is your turn. There is a comment box down below. Put it in writing. Make it real. And remind yourself as I am reminding myself; we could make this commitment every single day.

For more information on Nelson Mandela International Day, click here
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