A song from Flower Drum Song by Rodgers and Hammerstein has become a precious note to me on life and living it. The song A Hundred Million Miracles (are happening every day) just seemed to fit into my life ever since I learned to live with HIV/AIDS and experienced a life filled with all the miracles I had been taking for granted and overlooked the 53 years I had lived before becoming truly aware of the world I lived in, partook of and assumed was due me.
Before becoming the person I am today and understanding the lyrics of A Hundred Million Miracles, I was a prejudiced, conceited, standoffish individual who really didn’t appreciate the wonderful, loving, educated, concerned and enlightened world I occupied for fifty some years.
I enjoyed the theatre, watched movies, read novels, responded to others who were my equals, listened and criticized at my pleasure, enjoyed life because it was due me and avoided anything not pleasurable. For over fifty years I took and felt I deserved all that I received and expected more.
On July 13, 1985, a new message came through loud, clear and destructive. GRID (gay related immune deficiency) appeared center stage and introduced itself within me. A number of new names came with it but they all meant the same thing. I was now the pariah of society getting my just desserts. The prejudices I lived with were now cast upon me. The people I avoided and derided now had every reason to distance themselves, defame me, thank their maker for my just punishments, despise all semblances of my being. For the following two years I continued to live with a mask that, hopefully, disguised the creature who was so threatening to the peaceful, innocent, moral society we invaded.
In 1987 with a group of like infected people we established a support group that was committed to survival. Within the group were hundreds of people, many like me and too many of a type I wouldn’t normally associate with. Many were individuals, who like me, enjoyed theatre, movies and show tunes. Wow! Movies! Flower Drum Song by Rodgers and Hammerstein. And therein, A Hundred Million Miracles. And then came the realization. I listened. I think I understand.
Miracle One: our support group loaded with people who I would never have met, understood, be helped by, loved, care for, come to know and cry at the loss of. Miracle Two: medical professionals who were there fighting to keep us alive, lead us to understand and have pride, pride, PRIDE. Miracle Three: accept myself, family and friends for who we are and not what we want them to be. Miracle Four: know that all people are worthwhile but you only understand that when you allow yourself to know them. Miracle One Hundred Million: I woke up again today and saw someone smile. For all the other miracles, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
I didn’t go through all my miracles because you really don’t want to hear about them when you can use the time to rejoice in recalling some of your hundred million. Live the life you have. Love those you share your time and space with. Forgive others but first forgive yourself. Never forget to smile and say thank you. LOVE AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS.
Read a reflection on the central role of support groups throughout the history of the epidemic.
Learn about how some researchers are exploring the potential for music to not only comfort and entertain but possibly assist in the treatment of many forms of illness.
Playwright Henry David Hwang created a modern adaptation of the musical that came to Broadway in 2002. Read his version and the accompanying essay by cultural critic Karen Wada reflecting on the history of Flower Drum Song and its relationship to the Asian-American community.
Bill Rydwels , age 79, was diagnosed with HIV in 1985. He is a white gay male who is widowed, college educated, and living alone in Second City, which has a big heart and wonderful people to share life with. He was one of the 19 original founding members of TPAN and served as its chairperson in 1987; he was also a founding member of National Association on HIV over Fifty and has served on the boards of NAHOF, Names Project Chicago, NAPWA, and AHHP. He has volunteered with Chicago's Health Program Project, Open Hand Chicago, AIDS Pastoral Care Program, Names Project Chicago, SAGE Chicago, Alternative HIV Health Project.