Kindness Is the Ultimate Grace

By Jacob Hardt
HIV Here & Now Poet and visual artist

13692499_159225021165496_5052930635272969523_nI’m thinking about shit today. About what’s about to happen to me. About who I am. I want to be strong and I am afraid. I guess I’m looking for courage inside my self…outside my self…. And I remember certain things about my life. I remember times I’ve been sick. I remember my body torn up with AIDS, not being able to feed myself, not being able to walk. I remember hospices and shingles and morphine pumps…. Terrible pain. I remember being shot at and beat with guns, bad drug deals and overdoses. Lying in the streets waiting to die…. Wanting to die. I remember…. Being alone feeling lost and hopeless and being used by people. Rape. I’ve been in some hard places. I think about God at these times. Who is he what is he…. Why…. And when is it over. All these times being so close to my end…. Yes there is…sadness. Profound sadness. But with it a tremendous feeling of peace believing it’s going to finally end.

I guess I’m thinking about the bigger picture…who am I? Who I’ve been….How the fuck I got through.

It’s so easy to get caught up in everyday bullshit, things that really don’t matter in the end. Am I sexy? Am I this? Why don’t I have that? Is easy to be consumed with stupid selfish shit. I can say that when death is close none of that matters.

What dose matter are little moments, flashes of life that meant something special. People you love, first kisses, most important to me…. Kindness and moments of grace, when people did selfless things for me…. And I think…What have I done within my time? How many flashes will I be for somebody else?

I couldn’t be farther away from those dark times today. My life is…I am…Safe. I have no intention of giving up. I am sad but…I’m ok.

Let me tell you why.

Along my path there have always been kind people doing and saying kind things. People loving me…when I didn’t know what love was…. I usually didn’t see it but it was there. Good was there. Most of the time I was too broken or lost to understand how much it meant when guys didn’t expect me to fuck around and were still helpful. I thought they were stupid, who doesn’t expect or want something from me? There were counselors and nurses, sponsors and case managers….

Somehow I’ve always seen life as wondrous and have always found everything interesting, beautiful. For as long as I remember, the stars and moon were my best friends and kept me alive in scary places.

I’m probably rambling …

I guess I want to tell people how much I love them. How much those little kindnesses mean to me. How they saved me.

I feel lucky, like I’m on the advanced course of life and God thinks I can handle the hardest lessons. I can. Honestly I’d be so much less me if I hadn’t been through so much. I see people miss what’s important every day. And to me they sparkle like diamonds. I know every little act of love had the potential to change somebody’s life. Even saying hi to a stranger can change the tone of my day. I know that all people have the same feelings. I know people aren’t ever better or worse than anybody else. There is no evil…. But there is broken. Lost. Loneliness. Selfishness. People do and say awful things because they can’t see beyond themselves.

Most important I know there’s hope for everybody and if you spend time helping make it better for them…You will be free.

Kindness is the ultimate grace.

Grace…. There’s my answer.

I am so glad to be alive

13669499_10210186512278810_4897133117060316470_oEDITOR’S NOTE: My friend Jake is beginning a prison sentence this week. I do not want to go into details here (to protect both his privacy and his safety). but I can assure you that Jake is a man of good works. The picture above was taken at a going-away picnic for Jake in Central Park last week. Each of the men and women in this picture loves Jake and believes in Jake.

Jacob Hardt was born in Grand Junction, Colorado, but grew up on Santa Monica Boulevard  in LA and Polk Street in San Francisco. Working with the AIDS Office of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Jacob spoke on behalf of the Wedge Program, the first HIV educational program in existence that brought people with AIDS into classrooms (the program ran form 1988 to 2002), and Health Initiatives for Youth (Hi-Fy), an agency that provides health workshops for at-risk youth throughout the San Francisco Bay Area (his poetry and photographs have appeared in Hi-Fy’s Reality Magazine). Jacob currently lives in New York City where he pursues writing, painting, and photography.

One Comment

  1. Lisa Andrews

    I love your description of “moments, flashes of life.” And I love your saying that “kindness is the ultimate grace.” And that in helping others — we will be free. I connect very deeply with what you say about these flashes — about the kindness of others. It has me thinking of moments of unexpected and extraordinary kindness — often from people I never saw again. Reading your piece, I find myself thinking about an amazing nurse in the ER one night; about the person who lent me her radio when I was sick on a trip years ago; about a cab driver who drove me to the ER and waited and drove me back — in Ireland years ago — charging me nothing for the time that he waited, and how he said, when I thanked him, “Trouble’s no trouble.” Today those flashes seem a little like the stars you mention. Thank you for writing this. For this “flash of life.” Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I admire and respect, and could learn a lot from your brave gratitude.

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