As you might have guessed, the past couple of days have been busy. Something had to go and that something was blogging.
While I have a moment, I wanted to update you on the job search thing. Although I don't know how much closer I am to finding out what I want to do, I have at least been having fascinating conversations with some really interesting people as I do informational interviews.
Here's how that works: I'm talking to a friend and explain in the course of conversation that I'm thinking about such-and-such a field; and that person says, "Oh, I know just the person you should talk to!" It's amazing.
I was having dinner with Lorin and her husband a couple of weeks ago and told them I was thinking about doing work with hospice. And Lorin's husband, Chris, said, "Oh, I know just the person you should talk to!" So the next week, I met Chuck Cole who is a consultant for skilled nursing facilities ("sniffs" I learned they are called).
Chris had been very coy when he introduced us via email and so when Chuck asked me what my story was, I told him I was an Episcopal priest looking to make a career change, possibly into non-profit administration. Chuck just laughed and said, "Well, that changes the direction of our conversation."
Turns out, Chuck had been a Baptist minister. He had been working at a church in Modesto that grew by leaps and bounds in the 1970's when he was outed to his congregation and forced to leave. He moved to San Francisco in 1977 and got involved with the MCC. Then the AIDS crisis hit--what was then called GRID.
Before he was a minister, Chuck had been an RN. With his medical background and connections to the gay community, he was named part of Mayor Dianne Feinstein's task force on AIDS. And as a result of that, he helped establish what we now know as the hospice program in the United States. Not that he was getting paid much for that; he was doing consulting work for AT&T and other companies during the day and doing this work at night. I can't imagine how exhausting that must have been--physically and emotionally. He told me that by 1995, he had held durable power of attorney for something like 80 people and had been the executor of over 60 estates. I cannot imagine.
But these programs became the model for hospice programs throughout the United States. During the 80's, Medicaid came and looked at what they were doing and included it in their coverage; you don't get much more mainstream than that. Of course, it's very mainstream (and well-regulated) status means there is not much of a future in hospice administration as a career. That's all right. It's as good to know what not to pursue as to have new leads to follow.
A few thoughts about this: first of all, I had no idea how much we owed the gay community for the quality of our life and death in contemporary America. It had never occurred to me that hospice came from somewhere. I didn't know that it was in great measure instigated by the AIDS crisis.
Secondly, I was so encouraged by this meeting. I was reminded of the book of Esther, being put in place "for just such a time as this." Or perhaps more appropriately Joseph. Because how would you have guessed, after being kicked out of your church and finding yourself unemployed in San Francisco, that you would be just the right person to help at just the right time. It cannot have felt like that.
Plain and simple, this interview gave me hope that, though I don't know what I will be doing in a year's time, what I have done and who I am will have prepared me for the next thing. Does that make sense? I hope that I too will be able to look back in future years and see that I was just the right person in the right place at the right time to do what God has put me here to do. Whatever that might be.
Thank you, Chuck, for your encouragement. I hope I got the gist of your tale right. It meant a great deal to me to talk to you.