“He’s had AIDS for twenty years”…REALLY???


By Kenneth Justice

~At one of the local café’s I frequent there’s this really nice older gay guy that always comes by my table to say hello, actually he pretty much talks to everybody in there because he’s such a likable guy. Yesterday he was telling me about a former boyfriend of his who is laid up in the hospital at the moment recovering from a stroke,

He was in a coma for fourteen days following the stroke and when I went to see him after he woke up this past week he couldn’t stop telling me how grateful he was for his health” he told me. What is fascinating about his friend talking about how thankful he is for his health is not the fact that he just got out of a two week coma…..but that he has had AIDS for the last twenty years.

Talk about someone who has a ‘right’ to complain about their health! Yet instead, his friend is so glad to be alive that the stroke, a coma, and two decades of living with AIDS has not killed his spirit, “Ever since we broke up years ago, I go over to his house once a week to do his laundry and help with the cleaning and if ever the subject of AIDS comes up he simply says, ‘it is what it is’, there’s nothing he can do about it so he just accepts it and lives his life” my acquaintance told me.

For the last few years I struggled with a toothache and unfortunately although I’ve had health insurance most of my life, I’ve never had Dental Insurance; there were a lot of days that my tooth bothered me so much and because I didn’t have the time or money to get my tooth fixed all I could was think something similar, ‘it is what it is’ and keep living my life.

Obviously a toothache isn’t even in the same hemisphere as a guy who has AIDS….but the lesson is applicable in so many different areas of life;

—) Some people find themselves with children and feel overwhelmed

—) Some people find themselves divorce or single and ache to be in a relationship

—) Some people are struggling in their career or simply struggling to pay the bills

I’m reminded of the verse “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Sure, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about the problems we face; in fact we should be concerned. But at a certain point we’ve simply got to let things go because worrying about them incessantly won’t help to improve our situation….and if anything, worrying tends to exacerbate our problems.

Thankfulness seems to be a dying attitude in Western Culture. How many people express thankfulness in their everyday life? I could be wrong, but it seems to me that more often than not people tend to express negativity, both inward and outward, and have a hard time finding things to be thankful about.

That is what my gay acquaintance was talking to me about at coffee; thankfulness. He is thankful to be alive. He is thankful that his friend his still alive. After having AIDS for twenty years his friend has found that it helps him more to be thankful, rather than to wallow in despair.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”   And whether or not we are religious there is a truth that we can come away with from Bonhoeffer; it’s easy to focus on all of our problems, it’s easy to focus on the ‘big’ things in life……and in so doing forget to see all of the little joys with which we can be thankful.

—-) Do we have our health? Then let us be thankful!
—-) Do we have a roof over our head?  Then let us be thankful!
—-) Do we have food on the table? Then let us be thankful!

Many aspects of Western Culture encourage us to be ungrateful; commercial advertisements tell us that we are not content; “you will only be happy if you purchase our product!” they tell us. ‘Consume’, ‘Purchase’, ‘Buy’ are terms that advertisers throw at us via the television, radio, billboards, and everywhere we walk in Western Society…….

But as we all know; that shiny new toy eventually fades, the brand new automobile eventually loses the ‘new car’ smell, and the cool new hairstyle will eventually disappear. We can either try to find joy in consuming….or we can learn to be thankful for what we have. This isn’t to say we can’t be thankful for a new car……but that we must realize material goods can never offer us eternal joy.

Just a few thoughts as I drank my coffee this morning,


If you haven’t heard I’m about to embark on the second part of my 100 coffee house tour with stops in Atlanta, Chicago, Pittsburgh, St Louis, Philadelphia and more…. check out my homepage for more dates and locations; I’d love to have coffee with you!

Disclaimer; None of the people in my photos are the people I write about unless explicitly stated.

Categories: Culture & Society

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81 replies

  1. It’s in the mundane tasks we should be grateful because we never know when we wish we had been.

  2. I find that people who are able to express gratitude, even if only to themselves…are generally the happiest.

  3. Nice one today. It is what it is. Be thank full.

    My brother gave me a good thought years ago when I shared some consumer confusion (we were debating whether to replace the sofas or have a holiday): “You can buy a sofa and get all excited. And in five years time you will be wanting to replace it all over again. Or you can have a (special anniversary) holiday and the memories will last a lifetime.” I like my brother! 🙂

    And we had the holiday – and the memories are wonderful and still as bright today as then!

  4. “Many aspects of Western Culture encourage us to be ungrateful; commercial advertisements tell us that we are not content; “you will only be happy if you purchase our product!” they tell us. ‘Consume’, ‘Purchase’, ‘Buy’ are terms that advertisers throw at us via the television, radio, billboards, and everywhere we walk in Western Society.”

    You have a point. We live in a culture where we are taught to be ungrateful. Gratefulness may increase if these messages are ignored.

  5. Gratitude is a great force for good in our lives — when we tune into gratitude, the power of the universe glows in us and radiates from us.
    ~ Eric

  6. I really liked this post. Chronic illness can kill the spirit quicker than kill the body.

  7. very wise words, and a very healthy way of thinking. Western culture starts from the point of making us feel deficient…, oh dear. On the bright side – I love your blog !

  8. Amazing perspective!!! Thank you! How wonderful if we could do this easily and daily 🙂

  9. I woke up this morning. Best gift ever. 🙂

  10. Seems ironic in a way, but thanks for the great reminder. I especially love the Bonhoeffer quote.

  11. I see your point. But I’d like to have about 50k extra dollars right now. I’m certain payin off a debt or 2 would add to my thankfulness!

  12. Thanks. Thats a lesson I needed to remember this morning.

  13. I think there is a good bit of evidence that gratitude does good things for your physical health.

  14. We do live in a consumers world.
    And we complain about a little thing but make it so big we forget about the things that truly matter. As if we are on self destruct. Everything is wrong, bad or defective.
    But it would be a bad thing to admit that 😉 And or complain because we then do get stuck in a vicious circle.

  15. Perspective … the beauty of seeing life through someone else’s eyes, experience and life.

  16. Everyday is a special day, so we should enjoy and appreciate what we have and not let the time time tell us what we had was precious and valuable. I’m thankful of my 20 yrs of bumby roads, but a vacation on the beach now would be grateful breeze😀

  17. We even call ourselves consumers, and proudly, as if consuming things were a high calling.

  18. Thanks for the reminder! I live with chronic illness and I definitely needed this today! It is what it is, but not who I am.

    • Dude, good for you…I can’t imagine what life must be like for you but I’m always impressed with people who have chronic illnesses yet they keep on keeping on 🙂

  19. Thankfulness, exercise, and sex. I don’t always feel like doing it but I know if I can just get going I will end up in a better place.

  20. Yes, yes, yes, and yes! This principle of being thankful for what you have, rather than worry/stress about what you don’t have, is something good that I can say came out of my awful marriage, that I discovered while recovering last year. Like the song Bing Crosby sings to Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas, “If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, then count your blessings instead of sheep…and you’ll fall asleep, counting your blessings”. It may seem silly to some Americans, but it really is lovely to focus on what you’re thankful for, even the seemingly small stuff. Awesome post Kenny!

    • Ha! I never even though of that song but its a good one! i usually watch White Christmas every December but never got around to it this past holiday….i always enjoy that film 🙂

  21. Okay, I’m often refered to as Positive Polly around here…I don’t like the name, not at all, but I suppose I am. This post is total inspiration, Kenneth.
    ( ‘we must realize material goods can never offer us eternal joy.’ Truth! )
    I gotta tell you though, it takes a toll on the person trying to see the positive in so much negative. Yet, I agree.

    Being thankful for the small stuff is waaayyy overlooked. Kinda like my opportunity to give my side of the story to the traffic judge. I totally overlooked that. 🙂
    Just sayin’ ~Aud

    • Yea if people called me ‘positive Polly’ (or whatever the male version of that is) I probably would NOT like it at all……

      Seeing the positive is actually VERY difficult for me, its far easier for me to focus on the negative and that’s why I make a concerted effort to write a few positive articles regularly so I don’t get trapped into a sea of hundreds of negative downer articles 🙂

    • It would be Positive Peter… just FYI

      And that’s why you have me! No trapping allowed. 😀

  22. being grateful means being conscious, to be aware, to look within yourself.

  23. This reminds me of a conversation I had with some friends about spoiled children. None of us have kids, but we work with a lot of older adults that do. We were discussing the kids that get everything they ask for and whether or not that alone makes a kid spoiler or if it has more to do with their personality.

    My one friend told use about a shopping trip she went on with her mom where her mom insisted on buying something for her. She repeated a few times that her mom didn’t need to do that, but her mom wasn’t having it. As they walked to the cashier, she thanked her mom for her generosity. The cashier was stunned and told them how rare it was to see a child grateful for the things parents are buying for them. It’s much more common to see them complain about what their parents won’t get them.

    What makes a person greatful for what they have or ungreatful? Certainly it’s more than just the media we are exposed to. Then again, it’s probably more than how we were raised as well.

    • I’m sure the type of parents we have has something to do with it. But on the other hand I’ve seen some really ‘grateful’ people come out of homes where they were spoiled so perhaps some of it has to do with the choices we make in how we are going to act and behave

  24. “but that we must realize material goods can never offer us eternal joy.”
    -Just another way to try and fill a void. It’s one of the ways I used to try and fill mine. But like you said, soon after, the romance of it fades and you need something else. Everybody worships something/one. For some it’s the material things. Especially in western society.

    I have a friend that told me once that when she starts to feel down and is tempted to complain about her problems, she opens the newspaper and starts reading. How can you not be thankful for your tranquil little life after reading the paper? hehehe

    Blessings =)

    • Yea, reading the newspaper definitely makes one thankful to be alive! Although that is obviously a criticism of the news; to often journalists make me feel as though ‘death’ is the only thing worth reporting!

  25. I LOVE this. I simply love it. Thank you.

  26. well I was completely surprised because I thought format he title that this post was going to be about Magic Johnson!!! who revealed that he had AIDS back in 1991 and is still going strong – but maybe I have basketball on the brain because I just thought I saw Charles Barkley interview the president of the United Staes. Oh wait… that was real – I did see that! lol and well, have to say it was far better than the O’Reilly interview…

    anyhow, years ago I saw an interview with a former swimming athlete (in the 80’s olympics) who has HIV and he said he has to take pills all throughout the day – and he said one day he was just sick of it – just tired of taking them – so he stopped. Then, I think a year later maybe – well he said when his symptoms showed up – he quickly went back on his regime – and well, he said that stirred up great fulness because those daily meds are what prolongs his life….

    and this is my fav line from this post:
    “and in so doing forget to see all of the little joys with which we can be thankful.”

    thanks for reminding us of the perks of having an attitude of gratitude….

    • Yea, I here the medicine for HIV is getting much better. Last year there was a story about a guy in Russia who no longer has to take the medicine because the traces of HIV have all but disappeared in his body… pretty amazing.


  27. This is an area I have come to understand greatly. My family has a lengthy background in the military, so although stories are shared, the most horrific elements are kept close to the chest. However, there was an incident involving my older brother’s first tour in Iraq. He explained the horrors that came with war (bodies, blood, etc). He said after the first encounter with a comrade’s demise before his very eyes, it changed his entire outlook on life. The mere fact of being alive for him was like winning the lottery. Being able to sit at home with a loved one and discuss last night’s game, that was on par with visiting an enchanted island. In other words, seeing death and the woes of a country in complete turmoil, it allowed him to have a greater appreciation for life. That discussion was several years ago, but it became part of me. For me, life isn’t measured by tangible goods–those things fade instantly. What matters are the memories created and connections shared with others. I owe this sense of being grateful and appreciation to him. Wonderful post.

    • Wow! Yea, I can’t imagine what your brother went through….. he probably has a whole lot more insight into this area of thankfulness than I will ever have for sure

  28. Thanks for this article, Kenneth! Just what I needed right now ^^

  29. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I have really enjoyed the “short-form” goal setting site 43Things. The biggest goal people participate in is: “Daily: Reflect on 5 things for which I’m grateful.” Yeah. 5 things– everyday. I didn’t always hit it daily, but the more I was committed to that goal, the more I saw my outlook improve. It was truly amazing.

  30. Hey the new car smell can be replaced with a bottle of specially imported fragrance; again commercialization.
    I’m reading your post and I see someone with what could be a possible death sentence (at least some years ago) and he wants to live; yet in our society and throughout the world many are trying to and succeeding in taking their lives. What a contradiction we live. W

  31. There is a reason I often read your blogs while at lunch. It’s a good time to take a break and reenergize. There is nothing more to add to what you’ve said. I’ll go home and remind myself and family of these things.

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