Holiday 1996
                                        Happy Holidays 1996

What a year!  26 years old and still full of questions.  I remember thinking I would find answers
when I moved to California.  For some, I have.  I have also found that I'll probably spend most of
my life finding new questions.  This year, I am searching for questions and answers in graduate
school, at work, while running, writing, dating and playing outside.  1996 has been a good year
for me, and I hope it has been for you too.

I still also wonder how much AIDS I can take.  Work is going well, and this year I move to the
Department Director position at Catholic Charities.  Largely this had been a wonderful
experience.  I am amazed, however how much my life is controlled by a virus.  HIV is so much
part of my identity, AIDS is the focus of my world, and I struggle to imagine life without the AIDS
community.  This year AIDS took me to Chicago, to D.C. for the Quilt, and inward for a deeper
understanding of life's meaning.  It has also made me cry often and deeply.

Oddly, this new life in AIDS has helped me understand some of my roots.  For the longest time I
could never understand why my parents (or any other Catholic) had such veneration for icons.  
Particularly the "Mary" icons confused me.  What did these have to do with my life? I'd wonder.  
Then I went to yet another funeral.  This mother reached into the coffin of her dead son and
touched him.  She adjusted his clothing and she stroked his hair.  His pain had ended and hers
had just begun.  I watched her pour herself into his coffin.  It was like watching a heart break.  I
could not imagine what it would be like to welcome a life into the world and then attempt to say
goodbye as this mother was.  And then I understood.  I finally realized that this is the connection
to Mary that some people venerate.  Mothers, like no other, have a deep, loving pain.  As I
watched the grief of this woman at her son's coffin I imagined Mary at her son’s death.  His
crucifixion was because of the misunderstanding of others.  Isn't this true of people with AIDS?  
AIDS gave me a connection to my faith roots that otherwise I may never have recognized.  Yet
again, I am shocked by the gift found in AIDS.

This year I've questioned why my life is so controlled by HIV.  I even find myself wondering--
every time I get a cold or flu--am I positive too?  I'm not, but I certainly find myself living life as
though I am and enjoying it all the more.  Ironic?  Not really.  HIV usually challenges people to a
deeper understanding of life's gifts, particularly its brevity.  And yet hope as sprung.  Perhaps you
have heard about the new treatments.  Please pray that the long term effects of these drugs are as
positive as the initial ones.  Sadly, many people I know either do not have financial access to
these drugs nor can they tolerate their side effects.  The epidemic is far from over.  Now that's
frustrating.  As such, I've decided to do something about it.

In 1997 I plan to ride 550 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles to benefit AIDS services.  I
figured, why I should sit on my ass at my desk, when I can do something for others while riding
my bike.  I plan to take seven days out of my life and join over 2,000 others as we raise over 8
million dollars.  I personally have to raise 2,500.00 to participate.  Daily I question how I can
tolerate the challenges of AIDS.  I think that this AIDS Ride will give me a visible, active outcome
and a unique challenge.  I'm not great a raising money.  Frankly, I think it is a lot, but I'll do it.  I
will also let you know how you can help if you are interested.  So, in 1997 I plan from San
Francisco to Los Angeles.  Please keep me in your prayers and I'll keep you posted.

So, in 1996 I asked questions.  I wondered if I could sneak into the 100th running of Boston
Marathon, and I did.  I questioned whether or not I could continue in AIDS education, and I
have.  I hope things have been going equally well in your life, and that you are blessed with many,
many questions.  I wonder if you will actually get this by Christmas, and realize you will not!  So,
happy New Year. Let's make it a good one!

Happy Holidays! Love,
Randy