Recently, when my son was in town I went to the George Bush Presidential Library. Right there amongst the documents from diplomats and gifts from visiting dignitaries was a letter from Bono to President Bush.
For those of you that don’t know, Bono is the lead singer in a little band called U2, otherwise known—in my husband’s opinion—as the greatest band on earth.
I had to know more…so I started reading up on how this relationship began. I’m going to explain it with a timeline.
UNICEF puts out a report that states 5.4 million people were newly infected in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. Over 2.8 million people died the previous year.
Billy Graham begins to mobilize evangelicals in the US to address the HIV/AIDS problem.
Republicans were skeptical about foreign aid to Africa and felt like Africa should handle their own problems.
Colin Power, the Secretary of State, had other concerns. He believed that the AIDS epidemic would wipe out an entire child-bearing population, leaving behind instability and a climate ripe for terrorism. He didn’t consider this a health crisis…but a National Security crisis.
Bono’s popularity increases and he’s on the cover of Time magazine.
The US is getting criticized by other nations for contributing so little to the epidemic. President Bush wants to increase foreign aid by 50% over a three year period.
President Bush has a secret meeting with Dr Jean Pape, a physician who cared for AIDS patients in Haiti. The doctor told the President that “our arms are totally broken” and “there are things we could do if we had the drugs.”
He must have made an impact on the President because…
In his State of the Union address, President Bush says “…tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief…I ask Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years.”
Meanwhile, America is split on the war in Iraq and the President Bush has his hands full trying to revamp Social Security.
Later that year, Bono confronts President Bush about the gap of promised funds versus actual money sent to Africa. Only two million dollars were actually approved to aid the crisis.
Bono tells reporters that he is depressed about the situation.
U2 enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Live 8 is a string of benefit concerts that precede the G8 conference. More than a 1,000 musicians perform to “make poverty history”.
U2 plays London and the world hears more about the crisis.
Bono meets with President Bush. Beforehand, he tells the news media that he is not afraid of meeting world leaders because “they will be accountable for what happened on their watch. I’m representing the poorest and the most vulnerable people. On a spiritual level, I have that with me. I’m throwing a punch, and the fist belongs to the people who can’t be in the room, whose rage, whose anger, whose hurt I represent.”
Bono contacts Karl Rove, the senior advisor to the President to try to get Bush to agree to be on a cover in Vanity Fair.
Bono gets some people together for a special edition of a Vanity Fair edition. Annie Leibovitz is the photographer for a host of famous people including: George Clooney, Oprah, Obama, Brad Pitt and...George Bush. The common thread? People who are passionate about what’s happening in Africa.
Bono writes the “Pres” a note…
And the President of the United States writes back…
People living with HIV/AIDS : 33.4 million
2.1 million of those are children under the age of 15.
President Bush is regarded as “uncool” and “deeply unpopular” but Bono makes it clear in an interview that he believes the man can get results.
And he does.
The United States becomes the largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, providing $200 million in seed money. The US challenges other international donors to increase their donations.
The private sector gets involved with advocacy, philanthropic contributions and private partnerships.
Bono is named Person of the Year along with Bill and Melinda Gates.
The tide is turning in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A report states that deaths have decreased by 20%, new infections were down 21% and 6.6 million people were placed on antiretroviral therapies.
It also said that, “Few, if any, global health or developmental assistance programs in US history have been able to initiate such a wide range of activities in so many resource-constrained settings in such a short period of time.”
Bono writes another note…
This one was a bit hard to read so let me help…
Hard to take in what you have accomplished in at least 8.3 million lives.
What a gift to the world.
Bono hangs out with G.Man on his ranch. (see picture) President Bush writes on Instagram, “Bono is the real deal. He has a huge heart and a selfless soul, not to mention a decent voice.”
Bono is awarded the inaugural George W. Bush Medal for Distinguished Leadership for his work combatting the HIV/AIDS crisis and poverty in Africa.
Here’s a Rolling Stone video for you.
So that’s the story I could piece together about G. Man and Bono.
But one more thing.
In an interview, Bono was asked how he got the attention of so many world leaders. He answered it wasn’t anything to do with him being an Irish musician it was because “They are afraid of our audience.”
It wasn’t just the celebrities that made this happen.
It was all of us.
My intern year I spent Thanksgiving taking care of children on the oncology unit. No turkey from the grill (my dad’s specialty) No cranberry sauce or homemade pumpkin pie. It was the first time I was alone for a holiday. It’s impossible to feel sorry for yourself on a ward where parents would give up their turkey dinner…their cars and bank accounts…even body parts… for a chance to save their little ones.
The oncology unit has a surreal feeling about it. Children are still children, no matter what the circumstances. They play, sing, dance... oblivious to the fact that they are facing down a life-threatening condition.
Bald-headed, they dart down the hallways, clutching IV poles as they head toward play rooms stocked with pretend kitchen sets, bouncing balls and board games. Disney videos run endless loops, almost drowning out the constant beeping of the monitors that measure heart beats and blood pressures. They shriek with happiness when a stuffed animal is pulled from a gift bag, pout when vegetables show up on their lunch tray and whine it’s nap-time. These kids giggle, snort and pretend to fart.
But sometimes those noises...those completely normal childhood noises...invade rooms where they don’t belong. Rooms where a pale child lies too quietly, taking breaths that are too fragile. Rooms where a mother muffles her sobs and a doctor struggles to find one more treatment plan.
In those rooms, desperation and hope are so thick in the air that it's hard to take a breath.
This Thanksgiving I’m thinking about the children who will spend the holiday in the oncology unit. Nurses who will be too tired to even care what’s on their plate. Parents who will make the best of time spent in a strange and scary place. Doctors who will be forever touched (and changed) by the privilege of caring for these beautiful kids.
Every year 300,000 kids receive a diagnosis of cancer.
Once a death sentence, now 90% of kids with the most common type of cancer will survive.
Those cures exist because of research.
I'm thankful for Alan Ridenour. He's doing more than just thinking about children with cancer, he’s committed to supporting St. Baldrick’s Foundation--where they work to cure childhood cancers.
HOW ABOUT THIS?
You can help him here...
I had a restless night. This morning I stood impatiently by the tea maker only to realize that I’d forgotten to add the water. It was while I waited, yearning for the rumbling that meant the water was starting to boil that I realized the back of my thigh was tight. A quick stretch didn’t help.
It was cold outside and my favorite running socks were missing. I was down to one functioning flasher and it was still very dark. It would be hard for cars to see me, crossing streets would be dangerous.
All good reasons not to go for a morning run.
Yesterday, I saw a teenager with worsening depression. She’d been on medicine for a while and initially seemed better. And then she wasn’t.
I took a big breath and opened the door. Her eyes, wary and tear-rimmed, followed me as I walked into the room. She said nothing. Her mom spoke instead. I heard what she said but I also read her eyes. They said what I’d already recognized, “SAVE HER! She’s in a cage with a lion!”
The mom didn’t even realize that the lion had taken a swipe at her too. I could see the rivulet of blood streaming down her sleeve as she described to me what had been happening. Parents often get injured when they try to stand between their children and this beast.
She was so desperate to get her daughter out of the cage that she didn’t recognize the bars were enclosing her also. As long as her daughter was in the cage…she was just as trapped.
The lion was pacing from one side of the room to the another. It’s was a slow, lazy saunter with an occasional insolent turn of the head. I kept my eyes on it—I don’t trust it.
But I think the teenager does. I think there are times when she curls up in a fetal position and this animal encircles her body with his. I think she weeps into his soft fur and I bet she falls asleep with the sound of his rumbling purrs. I’m worried that she believes the beast is comforting her, that he understands her sadness. She’s wrong. He loves no one.
I hold a whip and I’m pretty good at displaying a lot of bravado but this is a lion. He’s unpredictable and ferocious. And he’s killed before. I don’t want to be there. This scares me and makes me feel inadequate. I’m constantly afraid I won’t react fast enough or move the right direction…that he will pounce and I will have failed her.
The only thing more frightening… is doing nothing. Letting them face the beast alone. So I do the best I can.
I don’t run for exercise—that’s just a bonus in my book. I run when I’m tired and hurting and cold so I can prove to myself that I can do it. To make myself believe that I’m strong, resilient and determined.
I ran this morning because I have to.
I never know when I’m going to be stepping into a lion’s cage.
Last Thursday was the 2018 Champions for Children Breakfast supporting the Children’s Advocacy of Denton County. Aly Railman was the featured speaker. You probably remember her, she was the first American to win the gold in the floor exercise and a silver in the All-Around competition. But another event also makes Aly a memorable individual.
She survived sexual abuse in the hands of Larry Nassar. Larry was accused of molesting over 250 girls from as far back as 1992. He was a serial child molester…and he was the USA Gymnastics national team doctor.
I found Aly to be a disagreeable person.
She felt like USA Gymnastics and the Olympic committee did a poor job of supporting the girls, had issues with how the investigation was conducted by the police, and was outraged that a doctor would molest the very girls he was supposed to be caring for. Aly explained how she’s gone through multiple therapists without finding one that could help her. She failed to answer a lot of questions that the interviewer asked and kept going back to the same themes.
Now, before you attack me for calling her disagreeable… Let me explain.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book David and Goliath, said “Society frowns on disagreeableness. As human beings we are hardwired to seek the approval of those around us. Yet a radical and transformative thought goes nowhere without the willingness to challenge convention." It’s clear that Aly not only wants to change convention, she insists on it.
Aly is incredibly frustrated.
Shockingly, when she reported the sexual abuse, Aly was told by USA Gymnastics that they were handling it. Furthermore, she said she felt ‘threatened’ to be quiet and not discuss what had been happening. But they did not report it immediately, and Nassar still had the opportunity to molest other gymnasts. Steve Penny, who headed USA Gymnastics allegedly tampered with evidence regarding the case and eventually resigned. There were others involved who knew or suspected what was going on—and they’re still part of USA Gymnastics.
Aly was betrayed.
One would assume that law enforcement would have been immediately involved but that wasn’t the case. This article in the Washington Post questioned why, with so many allegations of sexual assault and possible cover-up, the issue was treated as a ‘internal’ inquiry. Sally Jenkins, the author of the article, asked, “Where are the prosecutors and attorneys general of those states, and why aren’t they investigating the failure to report and whether it led to other preventable crimes?” and “And where in the world is the FBI?”
Aly lost faith in the legal system.
Aly spoke about Nassar and how he got away with it—the man was intelligent. As Rachel Denhollander, one of his victim’s said, “He has the personality, he has the skill, he has the knowledge, and he’s using that to prey on people.” Nassar sent photographs of the girls to their parents, becoming a link in families forced into separation while their children trained. He brought food to girls too busy to eat and claimed to ‘have their back’ when they needed help. He was granted such trust that he actually performed bogus ‘pelvic massage therapy’ on girls with their parents in the same exam room.
Aly lost trust in doctors.
Aly explained how she’s been in therapy for a long time and has been through several counselors so far. I wasn’t surprised. I imagine they don’t understand what they’re trying to treat. Aly doesn’t have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because this is not a past event for her…she’s still living it. She travels around the country talking about it, educating people, insisting that the curtain be pulled back and everyone take a hard look at what has been going on.
I would be defeated and demoralized if I were Aly.
But instead, Aly’s forcing us to listen. Gladwell said disagreeable people are “willing to take social risks—to do things that others might disapprove of.” But maybe you still don’t like that term disagreeable? What about another word to describe her…
For me, going to a Josh Groban concert is like Christmas… and my birthday… and an unexpected snow day all tied up with a bow.
We arrived late. Two different couples begrudgingly stood up to allow us to pass by as we made our way toward our seats. Idina Menzel was the warm-up for Josh and she was in full swing. I didn’t blame them for their disapproving looks, Idina was flashy and dynamic…but I came to hear Josh.
His music soothes me. When we’re traveling and I get overwhelmed with the crowds, the noise, the delays and inconveniences of travel, my husband will slip his head phones over my ears and play some Josh for me.
Josh introduced most of his songs with a personal story. At one point, he described how he’d been a shy, awkward teenager. He took a moment to thank all the teachers that had supported him during those difficult years. The woman on my right clapped really hard. Her bracelets jangled and her rings flashed.
She’s a teacher, I thought.
His introduction to one of his newer songs was even more serious. “A lot of attention is placed on cancer, heart disease, and AIDS,” he said. “This song is to draw attention to those that are depressed and feel like there is no hope. Depression tells you that no one cares and you can’t possibly get better. But that’s not true.”
Was it my imagination or was the teacher surreptitiously wiping her eye?
Then he sang his song titled River.
It was not my imagination. She’d lifted her glasses and rested them on the top of her head. She was wiping both eyes now.
Her friends (I’d seen them talking earlier) did not seem to notice. Maybe they weren't really her friends. Maybe they were just chatting as seat mates. Maybe they don’t know what to do either.
Her shoulders were trembling and I felt torn. I wanted to pat her arm. I wanted to give her a full body hug. She was hurting. It wasn’t getting any better and I couldn’t even pay attention to what Josh was singing anymore.
I didn’t know what to do.
So I prayed.
Not like I should…not like my mother would.
But with force.
Do you know this verse? “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37.4)
It’s tempting to focus on the give you the desires of the heart portion but the two phrases are linked and Delight yourself in the Lord comes first.
In other words, I think it means that if I work to make God my source of happiness…he will grant me that which I desire.
Well, I believed that God would want me to have compassion for this woman.
So I asked him to DO SOMETHING and then trusted that he would.
And then this happened…
The lights went down.
People in the audience lifted up their glowing cell phones.
If you don’t go to a lot of concerts, it looks exactly like a Christmas candlelight service.
Josh started singing another song.
Perhaps you’ve heard this one in church…
It’s called You Raise Me Up.
The teacher leaned forward in the chair and then staggered to her feet.
She tilted her head back
raised her hands
and started singing.
And that’s when I had to wipe my eyes.