Sometimes I cry in the shower

When I started speaking to high school classes I was an extremely shy and introverted man, scared to death to stand in front of a group of strange teenagers and tell the details of my life story.  Still, I was determined to help as many students as I could learn about HIV prevention and what could happen if they failed to protect themselves and the ones they love.
My first few classes went well, only a couple questions at the end of each class and those questions were not hard to answer.  Then, as my confidence grew, as the day progressed, in one of the last classes of the day, a question was asked that made me really stop and think.
With only about five minutes left in this class I asked for any more questions.  Slowly and silently a hand went up in the back of the classroom.  A petit blond quietly asked, "With all your health issues that AIDS caused, your pain and your suffering, do you ever want to just sit down and cry?".  Suddenly, with that simple question, all of the walls I had put up around me, all of the barriers that shielded my vulnerability and my inner soft core, were threatened.  I thought for a moment, do I answer truthfully or do I continue to hold up those walls I had so carefully built over the years. 
I took a deep breath and answered, "Well, yes.  In fact, sometimes I cry in the shower.  Why the shower?  It is simple.  I cry in the shower because no one is there to see me cry.  No one can hear if I let out a sob or two.  Plus, the shower will always wash away my tears and as those tears go down the shower drain so do the reasons I cry.  The water not only washes away my tears but it washes away my sadness, my pain and my weaknesses leaving me fresh and ready to face whatever will come that day."  There was silence.  Then slowly I began to notice smiles on the faces of many students.  Many more nodded in agreement.  By being total honest and totally vulnerable, I had reached a majority of the students in this class.
It was then that I made the decision that I must be totally honest every time I speak about my life with HIV and AIDS.  I must not only show my strengths but I must be willing to show my weaknesses as well.  I must be willing to answer the difficult questions with honesty no matter how that will make me feel.  If I am totally honest all of the time, the students will know and will be willing to listen even if the subject matter is difficult for them to hear.  And, if I reach just a few students per class, if just a few will change their behaviors and stay HIV free, I have done what I set out to do.  And then maybe the tears that are washed down my shower drain, the tears of sadness, pain and weakness, will be mixed with tears of strength and joy.


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