Two nights ago I had the honor of attending my first Speakers Bureau meeting with the AIDS Committee of York Region. I was there simply as a volunteer to use my experience and training in public speaking to help them share their stories and messages more effectively when they reach out to the community. It was a small group of folks who are either infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. They came to the disease, or I should say, the disease came to them in many different ways. But they have one thing in common: They share a common courage in being willing to open up their lives and use their stories to educate, to tear down stigma, to build bridges, and to inspire others.
It was our first meeting together, and I took some time offering some basic ideas on public speaking and offered to go back to work with them more to turn their stories into messages to benefit their audiences. But as I listened to them sharing their stories, it struck me that the language of the evening has a strong…biblical tone to it. They speak of restoration of dignity, reaching the outcast, building bridges, etc. One person said, “I think I was given this disease so that my life can be used for a purpose of helping others find hope.”
After hearing their sharing, I offered some final remarks and I caught myself coining an interesting phase. I said to them: “Each time you get up and open your heart and share your stories, I hope you realize it is a moment that is….sacred…without being religious”
Driving home afterwards, I was impressed once again that since joining the world of social services, how many times I have heard God’s voice speak, seen God’s hand work, and felt God’s spirit moves, all outside the four walls of the church. My thoughts was drawn to Van Gogh’s famous painting, “Starry Night” (above), where he used yellow light to represent God’s presence, and he made it a point to show that the yellow light was everywhere, except in the church building in the painting.