Learning a Foreign Language
Learning a foreign language was one of the most difficult yet most rewarding experiences of my life. Although at times, learning a language was frustrating, it was well worth the effort.
My experience with a foreign language began in junior middle school, when I took my first English class. I had a kind and patient teacher who often praised all of the students. Because of this positive method, I eagerly answered all the questions I could, never worrying much about making mistakes. I was at the top of my class for two years.
When I went to senior middle school, I was eager to continue studying English; however, my experience in senior school was very different from before. While my former teacher had been patient with all the students, my new teacher quickly punished those who gave incorrect answers. Whenever we answered incorrectly, she pointed a long stick at us and, shaking it up and down, shouted, "No! No! No!" It didn't take me long to lose my eagerness to answer questions. Not only did I lose my joy in answering questions, but also I totally lost my desire to say anything at all in English.
However, that state didn't last long. When I went to college, I learned that all students were required to take an English course. Unlike my senior middle school teacher, my college English teachers were patient and kind, and none of them carried long, pointed sticks! However, the situation was far from perfect. As our classes were very large, I was only able to answer a couple of questions in each class period. Also, after a few weeks of classes, I noticed there were many students who spoke much better than I did. I began to feel intimidated. So, once again, although for different reasons, I was afraid to speak. It seemed my English was going to stay at the same level forever.
That was the situation until a couple of years later, when I was offered an opportunity to study English through an online course. The communication medium was a computer, phone line, and modem. I soon got access to the necessary equipment, learned the technology from a friend and participated in the virtual classroom 5 to 7 days a week.
Online learning is not easier than regular classroom study; it requires much time, commitment and discipline to keep up with the flow of the course. I worked hard to meet the minimum standards set by the course and to complete assignments on time.
I practiced all the time. I carried a little dictionary with me everywhere I went, as well as a notebook in which I listed any new words I heard. I made many, sometimes embarrassing, mistakes. Once in a while I cried with frustration, and sometimes I felt like giving up. But I didn't feel intimidated by students who spoke faster than I did because I took all the time I needed to think out my ideas and wrote a reply before posting it on the screen. Then, one day I realized I could understand just about everything I came across, and most importantly, I could "say" anything I wanted to in English. Although I still made many mistakes and was continually learning, I had finally reaped the benefits of all that hard work.
Learning a foreign language has been a most trying experience for me, but one that I wouldn't trade for anything. Not only did learning another language teach me the value of hard work, but it also gave me insights into another culture, and my mind was opened to new ways of seeing things. The most wonderful result of having learned a foreign language was that I could communicate with many more people than before. Talking with people is one of my favorite activities, so being able to speak a new language lets me meet new people, participate in conversations, and form new, unforgettable friendships. Now that I speak a foreign language, instead of staring into space when English is being spoken, I can participate and make friends. I am able to reach out to others and bridge the gap between my language and culture and theirs.
Keys to Successful Online Learning
While regular schools still exist, the virtual classroom plays an important role in today's learning community. Job opportunities for students are expanding rapidly and more people of all ages are becoming aware of online learning that allows them to study at home. Online students, however, require unique qualities to be successful. The following list discusses some ideal qualities of successful online students.
1. Be open-minded about sharing life, work, and learning experiences as part of online learning.
Many different people find that the online method requires them to use their experiences and that online learning offers them a place to communicate with each other. This forum for communication removes the visual barriers that hinder some students from expressing themselves. In addition, students are given time to reflect on the information before replying. In this way, students can help to keep the online environment open and friendly.
2. Be able to communicate through writing.
In the virtual classroom nearly all communication is written, so it is critical that students feel comfortable expressing themselves in writing. Some students have limited writing abilities which need to be improved before or as part of the online experience. This usually requires extra commitment by these students. Whether working alone or in a group, students share ideas, perspectives and discussions on the subject being studied, and read about those of their classmates. In this way, students gain great insight from their peers, learning from each other as well as the instructor.
3. Be willing to "speak up" if problems arise.
Remember that instructors cannot see their students in an online course. This means students must be absolutely explicit with their comments and requests. If they experience technical difficulties, or problems in
understanding something about the course, they MUST speak up; otherwise there is no way anyone can know something is wrong. If one person does not understand something, possibly several others have the same problem. If another student is able to help, she/he probably will. While explaining something to others, students reinforce their own knowledge about the subject.
4. Take the program seriously.
Online learning is not easier than study in regular classrooms. In fact, many students say it requires much more time and effort. Requirements for online courses are not less than those of any quality program. Successful students, however, see online learning as a convenient way to receive their education — not an easier way. Many online students sit at computers for hours at a time during evenings and on weekends in order to complete their assignments. When other people are finished and having fun is most likely the time when online students do their course work. Online students need to commit 4 to 15 hours a week for each course.
5. Accept critical thinking and decision making as part of online learning.
Online courses require students to make decisions based on facts as well as experience. It is absolutely necessary for students to assimilate information and make the right decisions based on critical thinking. In a positive online environment, students feel valued by the instructor, by their classmates and by their own work.
6. Be able to think ideas through before replying.
Providing meaningful and quality input into the virtual classroom is an essential part of online learning. Time is given to allow for careful development of answers. Testing and challenging of ideas is encouraged. Many times online students will not always be right; they just need to be prepared to accept a challenge.
7. Keep up with the progress of the course.
Online learning is normally sequential and requires commitment on the students' part. Keeping up with the face-to-face class and completing all work on time is vital. Once students get behind, it is almost impossible to catch up. Students need to want to be there and need to want the experience. The instructor may have to communicate with students personally to offer help and remind them of the need to keep up.
Just as many excellent instructors may not be effective online facilitators, not all students have the necessary qualities to perform well online. People who have the qualities discussed above usually make very successful online students. If you have these qualities, learning online may be one of the best discoveries you will ever make.
The radio clicked on. Rock music blasted forth. Like a shot, the music woke Sandy. She looked at the clock; it was 6:15 A.M. Sandy sang along with the words as she lay listening to her favorite radio station.
"Sandy," shouted her father. "Sandy, turn that music off!" Steve Finch burst into her room. "Why do you have to listen to such horrible stuff? It's the same thing over and over. I'm not sure it is really music, though it does have rhythm."
"I like that music, Dad; it's my favorite. Listen for a minute; I'm sure you'll like it." Sandy reached for the radio to turn it up louder.
"No, no, don't do that. I can't stand it. Turn that radio down so your mother and I can't hear it. I'm sure that music is hurting your ears as well as your brain."
Sandy walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Then she grabbed the soap and washed thoroughly, including her hair.
After her shower, Sandy brushed her hair, put on her old, green T-shirt and some jeans. Then she put on her makeup and went to the kitchen. As usual, she didn't know what to have for breakfast, so she grabbed a glass of milk and ate a piece of toast while standing by the sink. Just then, her mother, Jane, entered the kitchen.
"Sandy, why don't you sit down and eat your breakfast? It isn't healthy to eat standing up."
"I know, Mom, but I don't have time to sit down and eat."
"Did you finish your homework, dear?"
"Did you brush your teeth?"
"Mom, I haven't finished eating breakfast yet. I'll brush my teeth when I'm done."
"Sandy, why are you wearing that old T-shirt? It's disgusting."
"Mom, please stop."
"Stop what, dear?"
"Stop bugging me."
"Sandy, are you wearing eyeliner?"
"Yes, Mom, I've been wearing eyeliner for months. Isn't it pretty? "
"Sandy Finch, you're too young to wear that much makeup."
"Mom, I'm fifteen. I'm old enough to wear makeup. Believe me, all the girls at school wear makeup. Some have tattoos and pierced ears, and noses and tongues, too. Mom, I don't have time to talk about this now—I'm late. I've got to go. See you later." Sandy kissed her mother quickly on the cheek, picked up her books, and bolted out of the house.
After Sandy had left for school, Jane Finch sat down in peace and quiet to drink her coffee. Soon her husband joined her.
"Would you like some coffee, Steve?" asked Jane.
"No, thanks, honey. My stomach feels upset—like it's full of knots. It's probably that awful music that wakes me up every morning. I don't think I'm old-fashioned, but hearing those tuneless, offensive lyrics repeatedly makes my blood boil."
"You know, honey, different music appeals to different generations," reasoned Jane. "Remember some of the music we listened to?"
Steve smiled. "You're right. Maybe eating breakfast will help me get rid of some of the knots in my stomach."
"Did you notice how much makeup our fifteen-year-old daughter was wearing this morning? I can't believe I didn't notice. I suppose we should feel lucky because makeup is our biggest problem with her. I've seen other teenagers walking around town with tattoos and piercings all over their bodies."
"What worries me," said Steve, "is that music could have a negative influence on Sandy. I don't know what's happening to our little girl. She's changing and I'm concerned about her. Makeup, terrible music—who knows what will be next? We need to have a talk with her. The news is full of stories about teenagers in trouble whose parents hardly know anything about their problems."
"Oh, I don't think her music is so terrible. But in any case, you're right. We need to have a talk with Sandy," said Jane.
As Jane Finch drove to work, she thought about her Sandy. She knew what she wanted to say, what she had to say to Sandy. She was so glad that she and Sandy could still talk things over. She knew she had to have patience and keep the lines of communication with her daughter open. She wanted to be there as an anchor for her, but at the same time she would give her freedom to find her own identity.
Is There a Generation Gap?
The term "generation gap" was coined in the 1960s. One concept of the generation gap is that parents and children have different values and beliefs. As a result, many parents fear that peer opinions will become more highly valued and that they in turn will lose influence. Although the term continues to be used often, some people are beginning to ask the question, "Is there a generation gap in today's society?"
One study compared four generations, aged 18-30, 31-48, 49-62, and 63 and over. Several questions were asked to tap into basic beliefs and values, such as "Hard work is the key to getting ahead" and "America is the very best place in the world to live in". Across the generations, there was great consistency in the responses.
Many studies on youth also refute the concept of a generation gap. These studies show that while young people tend to value their peers' evaluations over parents' on things like music, clothing and what's "cool", they continue to look to parents for basic values and guidance in the more important areas of life, such as career and lifetime goals.
Of course, general trends can't always be applied to individual cases. It is natural to feel like there is an uncomfortable "gap" between our teens and us and that there is a need to bridge it. Perhaps, though, the problem does not lie in a difference of opinions or values, but in the way we relate to and communicate with each other. Here are some tips from an article entitled "Bridging the Generation Gap" that might help.
Show respect. An attitude of respect and trust can be contagious. Young people tend to see themselves the way their parents see them. In turn, they gain self-confidence and respect for themselves when you show that you respect their ability to make decisions and learn from their mistakes.
Listen more than you talk. Questioning can sound like interrogation. Instead, adopt an attitude of curiosity rather than control. Ask questions like "How so?" "What do you think now?" "Were you surprised?" "What will you do now?" "What's your plan?" "Is this something you want help with?" If your object is only to listen, you should be careful not to be preparing your response while your teen is still talking. You'll hear better that way, and they will be encouraged to talk more.
Ask whether your child wants to hear it before sharing your point of view. Only go on if they say "yes". Then be brief. Don't lecture, and don't expect them to agree with you. If you state your case with a "This is what makes sense to me" attitude as opposed to "This is the right way to see things", he or she can listen more openly instead of planning rebellion.
Think "we" instead of "you". "We have chores to do before we leave the house; how can we take care of what needs to be done?" Any way you can get across the message "We're in this together" can help bridge gaps that conflicts might otherwise create.
Keep calm. You can easily destroy your credibility by getting angry or too excited during a conversation. Instead of "You're ruining your life!", say "I'm concerned about what might happen if..." "What do you think you might do in a situation like that?"
Don't apply double standards. Teenagers pay close attention to double standards. Don't expect them to follow rules you don't follow yourself. Whether it's about checking in by the phone, putting things away or drinking out of the milk carton, "Do as I say and not as I do" will not improve the relationship.
Admit your own mistakes and talk about what you are learning from them. Showing self-acceptance and tolerance for imperfection is very encouraging to teenagers (as well as other people around you) and tends to make you easier to approach with questions, regrets and challenges. Apologize when you think you had done or said something differently, like losing your cool or saying something hurtful during an argument.
Enjoy them. The humor, energy and sense of possibility teenagers often have can awaken parents to positive sides of themselves they had forgotten or neglected. When teens experience being liked, they usually act more likeable.
A Good Heart to Lean on
More than I realized, Dad has helped me keep my balance.
When I was growing up, I was embarrassed to be seen with my father. He was severely crippled and very short, and when we walked together, his hand on my arm for balance, people would stare. I would inwardly struggle at the unwanted attention. If he ever noticed or was bothered, he never let on.
It was difficult to coordinate our steps—his halting, mine impatient—and because of that, we didn't say much as we went along. But as we started out, he always said, "You set the pace. I will try to adjust to you."
Our usual walk was to or from the subway on which he traveled to work. He went to work sick, and despite nasty weather. He almost never missed a day, and would make it to the office even if others could not. It was a matter of pride.
When snow or ice was on the ground, it was impossible for him to walk, even with help. At such times my sisters or I would pull him through the streets of Brooklyn, N.Y., on a child's wagon with steel runners to the subway entrance. Once there, he would cling to the handrail until he reached the lower steps that the warmer tunnel air kept free of ice. In Manhattan the subway station was in the basement of his office building, and he would not have to go outside again until we met him in Brooklyn on his way home.
When I think of it now, I am amazed at how much courage it must have taken for a grown man to subject himself to such shame and stress. And at how he did it—without bitterness or complaint.
He never talked about himself as an object of pity, nor did he show any envy of the more fortunate or able. What he looked for in others was a "good heart", and if he found one, the owner was good enough for him.
Now that I am older, I believe that is a proper standard by which to judge people, even though I still don't know precisely what a "good heart" is. But I know at times I don't have one myself.
Unable to engage in many activities, my father still tried to participate in some way. When a local baseball team found itself without a manager, he kept it going. He was a knowledgeable baseball fan and often took me to Ebbets Field to see the Brooklyn Dodgers play. He liked to go to dances and parties, where he could have a good time just sitting and watching.
On one occasion a fight broke out at a beach party, with everyone punching and shoving. He wasn't content to sit and watch, but he couldn't stand unaided on the soft sand. In frustration he began to shout, "I'll fight anyone who will sit down with me! I'll fight anyone who will sit down with me!"
Nobody did. But the next day people kidded him by saying it was the first time any fighter was urged to take a dive before the fight began.
I now know he participated in some things through me, his only son. When I played ball (poorly), he "played" too. When I joined the Navy, he "joined" too. And when I came home on leave, he saw to it that I visited his office. Introducing me, he was really saying, "This is my son, but it is also me, and I could have done this, too, if things had been different." Those words were never said aloud.
He has been gone many years now, but I think of him often. I wonder if he sensed my reluctance to be seen with him during our walks. If he did, I am sorry I never told him how sorry I was, how unworthy I was, how I regretted it. I think of him when I complain about trifles, when I am envious of another's good fortune, when I don't have a "good heart".
At such times I put my hand on his arm to regain my balance, and say, "You set the pace. I will try to adjust to you."
记得在一次沙滩聚会上，进行了一场殴斗，人人挥拳上阵，相互推撞。他不满足只是坐着观看，然而在松软的沙地上如果没人帮助，他又站不起来。于是在极度无助的情况下，他高声喊道：“谁坐下来和我对打! 谁愿意坐下来和我对打! ”
The Right Son at the Right Time
The story began on a downtown Brooklyn street corner. An elderly man had collapsed while crossing the street, and an ambulance rushed him to Kings County Hospital. There, when he came to now and again, the man repeatedly called for his son.
From a worn letter located in his pocket, an emergency room nurse learned that his son was a marine stationed in North Carolina. Apparently there were no other relatives.
Someone at the hospital called the Red Cross office in Brooklyn, and a request for the boy to rush to Brooklyn was sent to the Red Cross director of the North Carolina Marine Corps camp. Because time was short—the patient was dying—the Red Cross man and an officer set out in an army vehicle. They found the young man walking through some marshes in a military exercise. He was rushed to the airport in time to catch the sole plane that might enable him to reach his dying father.
It was dusk when the young marine walked into the entrance lobby of Kings County Hospital. A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside.
"Your son is here," she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened. The medicine he had been given for the pain from his heart attack made his eyes weak and he could only see the shadow of the young man in Marine Corps uniform standing outside the oxygen tent. He extended his hand. The marine wrapped his strong fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement. The nurse brought a chair, so the marine could sit by the bed.
Nights are long in hospitals, but all through the night the young marine sat there in the dimly lit ward, holding the old man's hand and offering words of hope and strength. Occasionally, the nurse urged the marine to rest for a while. He refused.
Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the marine was there, but he paid no attention to her and the night noises of the hospital—the banging of an oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff exchanging greetings, the cries and moans and breathing of other patients. Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son through most of the night.
It was nearly dawn when the patient died. The marine placed the lifeless hand he had been holding on the bed, and went to inform the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he smoked a cigarette, his first since he got to the hospital.
Finally, she returned to the nurse's station, where he was waiting. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the marine interrupted her. "Who was that man?" he asked.
"He was your father," she answered, startled.
"No, he wasn't," the marine replied. "I never saw him before in my life."
"Why didn't you say something when I took you to him?" the nurse asked.
"I knew immediately there'd been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn't here. When I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, I guessed he really needed me. So I stayed."
With that, the marine turned and exited the hospital. Two days later a message came in from the North Carolina Marine Corps base informing the Brooklyn Red Cross that the real son was on his way to Brooklyn for his father's funeral. It turned out there had been two marines with the same name and similar numbers in the camp. Someone in the personnel office had pulled out the wrong record.
But the wrong marine had become the right son at the right time. And he proved, in a very human way, that there are people who care what happens to their fellow men.
故事开始于布鲁克林闹市区的一个街角处。有个老汉过马路时突然晕倒在地, 一辆救护车把他急速送往金斯县医院。在医院里, 老人时昏时醒, 反反复复叫喊着,要见儿子。急救室的一位护士在他口袋里发现一封已被揉皱的信，从信中得知他儿子是海军陆战队的战士，随部队驻扎在北卡罗来纳州。看来, 他没有
医院有人给布鲁克林区的红十字办公室挂了电话，向北卡罗来纳州海军陆战队营地的红十字机构的主任发出请求, 让那个年轻人赶紧回布鲁克林。由于时间紧迫——病人已奄奄一息——红十字会的人和一名军官乘一辆军车出发。赶到部队时他们看到那个年轻人正在参加军事演习，徒步穿越沼泽地。他被及时送到机场, 赶上那班能把他送到临终的父亲身边的唯一的一架班机。
How to Make a Good Impression
Research shows we make up our minds about people through unspoken communication within seven seconds of meeting them. Consciously or unconsciously, we show our true feelings with our eyes, faces, bodies and attitudes, causing a chain of reactions, ranging from comfort to fear.
Think about some of your most unforgettable meetings: an introduction to your future spouse, a job interview, an encounter with a stranger. Focus on the first seven seconds. What did you feel and think? How did you "read" the other person? How do you think he read you?
You are the message. For 25 years I've worked with thousands who want to be successful. I've helped them make persuasive presentations, answer unfriendly questions, communicate more effectively. The secret has always been you are the message.
Others will want to be with you and help you if you use your good qualities. They include: physical appearance, energy, rate of speech, pitch and tone of voice, gestures, expression through the eyes, and the ability to hold the interest of others. Others form an impression about you based on these.
Think of times when you know you made a good impression. What made you successful? You were committed to what you were talking about and so absorbed in the moment you lost all self-consciousness.
Be yourself. Many how-to books advise you to stride into a room and impress others with your qualities. They instruct you to greet them with "power handshakes" and tell you to fix your eyes on the other person. If you follow all this advice, you'll drive everyone crazy—including yourself.
The trick is to be consistently you, at your best. The most effective people never change from one situation to another. They're the same whether they're having a conversation, addressing their garden club or being interviewed for a job. They communicate with their whole being; the tones of their voices and their gestures match their words.
Public speakers, however, often send mixed messages. My favorite is the kind who say, "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm very happy to be here"—while looking at their shoes. They don't look happy. They look angry, frightened or depressed.
The audience always believe what they see over what they hear. They think, "He's telling me he's happy, but he's not. He's not being honest."
Use your eyes. Whether you're talking to one person or one hundred, always remember to look at them. Some people start to say something while looking right at you, but three words into the sentence, they break eye contact and look out the window.
As you enter a room, move your eyes comfortably; then look straight at those in the room and smile. Smiling is important. It shows you are relaxed. Some think entering a room full of people is like going into a lion's cage. I disagree. If I did agree, I certainly wouldn't look at my feet or at the ceiling. I'd keep my eyes on the lion!
Lighten up. Once in a staff meeting, one of the most powerful chairmen in the entertainment industry became very angry over tiny problems, scolded each worker and enjoyed making them fear him. When he got to me, he shouted, "And you, Ailes, what are you doing?"
I said, "Do you mean now, this evening or for the rest of my life?" There was a moment of silence. Then the chairman threw back his head and roared with laughter. Others laughed too. Humor broke the stress of a very uncomfortable scene.
If I had to give advice in two words, it would be "lighten up"! You can always see people who take themselves too seriously. Usually they are either brooding or talking a great deal about themselves.
Take a good hard look at yourself. Do you say "I" too often? Are you usually focused on your own problems? Do you complain frequently? If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you need to lighten up. To make others comfortable, you have to appear comfortable yourself. Don't make any huge changes; just be yourself. You already have within you the power to make a good impression, because nobody can be you as well as you can.
"I liked him the minute I saw him!" "Before she even said a word, I knew there was something funny about her." Such statements are examples of "snap judgments", opinions which are formed suddenly, seemingly without using any sound reason at all. Most people say snap judgments are unsound or even dangerous. They also admit they often make snap judgments and find them to be fairly sound.
Snap judgments like "love at first sight" or "instant hate", if taken seriously, have usually been considered signs of immaturity or lack of common sense. When someone "has a feeling" about someone else, people more often laugh than pay attention. Most people think you find out about a person by listening to what he says over a period of time. Others say "actions speak louder than words", usually in relation to keeping promises, paying bills or sending money home.
Because people assume "you are what you say you are", they talk a lot to become acquainted with each other. Once two people have become acquainted, they think it was their conversation that gave them their information about each other.
As behavioral sciences develop, however, researchers find the importance of speech has been overestimated. Although speech is the most obvious form of communication, we do use other forms of which we may be only partially aware or, in some cases, completely unaware. It is possible we are unconsciously sending messages with
every action, messages that are unconsciously picked up by others and used in forming opinions. These unconscious actions and reactions to them may in part account for our "feelings" and "snap judgments".
We communicate a great deal, researchers have found, with our bodies—by the way we move, sit, stand and what we do with our hands and heads. Imagine a few people sitting in a waiting room: one is tapping his fingers on his briefcase, another keeps rubbing his hands together, another is biting his fingernails, still another grabs the arms of his chair tightly and one keeps running his fingers through his hair. These people aren't talking but they're "saying" a lot if you know the "body language" they're using.
Two of the most "telling" forms of behavior are driving a car and playing games. Notice a person's reaction to stress in these situations and to aggressive behavior in others. Those who easily become angry, excited, passive or resentful when driving or playing may be giving insights into the inside self.
While clothing serves a purely practical function, how you dress also communicates many things about your social status, state of mind and even your aspirations and dreams. An eleven-year-old girl who dresses like a college student and a forty-year-old woman who dresses like a teenager are saying something through what they wear. What you communicate through your kind of dress definitely influences others to accept the picture of yourself you are projecting: In the business world, the person who dresses like a successful manager is most likely to be promoted into a managing position.
Also important are the ornaments a person wears: buttons, medals, jewels, etc. Such ornaments are often the means by which a person announces a variety of things about himself: his convictions (campaign buttons), his beliefs (religious tokens), his membership in certain groups (club pins or badges), his past achievements (college ring or Phi Beta Kappa key) and his economic status (diamonds).
Another sign of a person's nature can be found in his choices in architecture and furniture. A person who would really like to live in a castle would probably be more at home in the Middle Ages. Those who like Victorian family houses and furniture might secretly welcome a return to more rigid social norms. People who are content with modern design are probably comfortable with modern lifestyles.
When you see a person for the first time, even though he doesn't speak to you, you begin watching him—his actions, his attitude, his clothing and many other things. There's a wealth of information there if you know how to "read" it. Perhaps snap judgments aren't so unsound after all.
The Battle Against AIDS
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was diagnosed in the United States in the late 1970s. Since then, AIDS has killed more than 204,000 Americans—half of that number in the past few years alone. Another 185,000 of the one million infected with the HIV virus are expected to die within the next year.
Nearly half of those diagnosed with the virus are blacks and Latinos. Women and youth in rural southern communities now constitute the fastest growing segment of people with AIDS.
Despite such alarming numbers, the federal and state governments have been slow in implementing programs to stop the spread of AIDS. In place of government inactivity, a number of local organizations have emerged.
One organization, the South Carolina AIDS Education Network, formed in 1985 to combat the growing number of AIDS cases. Like many local organizations, this organization suffers from a lack of money, forcing it to use its resources creatively. To reach more people in the community, some AIDS educational programs operate out of a beauty shop.
The owner hands out AIDS information to all her clients when they enter the shop and shows videos on AIDS prevention while they wait for their hair to dry. She also keeps books and other publications around so customers can read them while waiting for their appointments. It's amazing how many people she has educated on the job.
Recently, the network began helping hair stylists throughout the southeast set up similar programs in their shops. The hair stylists are also valuable resources in spreading information to their schools, community groups, and churches.
The organization has developed several techniques useful to other groups doing similar work. While no one way of winning the war against AIDS exists, the network shares these lessons learned in its battle against AIDS: Speak to your community in a way they can hear. Many communities have a low literacy rate, making impossible passing out AIDS literature and expecting people to read it. To solve this problem, ask people in the community who can draw well to create low-literacy AIDS education publications.
These books use simple, hand-drawn pictures of "sad faces" and "happy faces" to illustrate ways people can prevent AIDS. They also show people who look like those we need to educate, since people can relate more when they see familiar faces and language they can understand. As a result, such books actually have more effect in the communities where they are used than government publications, which cost thousands of dollars more to
Train teenagers to educate their peers. Because AIDS is spreading fastest among teenagers in the rural South, the stylists have established an "AIDS Busters" program which trains youth from 8 to 26 to go into the community and teach "AIDS 101" to their peers. They make it simple and explain the risk of catching AIDS to friends their own age much better than an adult can. They also play a vital role in helping parents understand the types of peer pressure their children experience.
Redefine "at risk" to include women from different backgrounds and marital status. One woman's doctor told her she was not at risk for AIDS because she was married and didn't use drugs. Such misinformation plagues the medical establishment. According to the Centers for Disease Control, women will soon make up 80 percent of those diagnosed with HIV.
The stylists also emphasize that everyone is at risk and that all of us have a right to protect ourselves—regardless of marriage status.
These lessons are not the only solutions to the crisis, but until there is a cure for AIDS, education represents the only safe measure to guard against the virus.
Like no other plague before, the AIDS epidemic threatens to wipe out an entire generation and leave another without parents. We must not let cultural, racial, or social barriers distract us from the job that must be done. Nor can we let political inefficiency stop us from our task. This is an undeclared war that everyone must sign up for in order for us to win. We simply cannot let people continue to die because we don't feel comfortable talking about AIDS. Everyone must become an educator and learn to live.
The Last Dive at the Olympics
I climbed the ladder, heard my dive announced, and commenced the moves that would thrust me into the air. Pushing off the diving board with my legs, I lifted my arms and shoulders back, and knew immediately I would be close to the board and might hit my hands. I tried to correct myself as I turned, spreading my hands wide apart. Then I heard a strange sound and my body lost control. Moments later I realized I had hit my head on the board.
Initially, I felt embarrassed. I wanted to hide, to get out of the pool without anyone seeing me. Next I felt intense fear. Had I cut my head? Was I bleeding? Was there blood in the pool? Swimming to the side, I noticed many shocked faces. People were worried about my head; I was worried about something far more threatening. An official examined my head. In haste, I pushed him away, and everyone else who approached me. "Don't touch me!" I felt like screaming. "Get away from me!"
These were the trials for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Until this dive, I had been ahead. But now, something else was more significant than winning. I might have endangered other divers' lives if I had spilled blood in the pool. For what I knew—that few others knew—was that I was HIV-positive.
According to my mother, my natural parents were Samoan and only teenagers when I was born, so they gave me up for adoption. When I was only eighteen months old, I started gym classes. At ten, I explored doing gym exercises off the diving board at the pool.
Because of my dark skin, kids at school called me names; I often got mugged coming home from school. My diving made me feel good about myself when my peers made me feel stupid. In the seventh grade, I started taking drugs.
At sixteen, I knew I had a shot at the 1976 Olympics. At the trials, one month prior to the finals, I took the first place on the ten-meter platform and on the springboard! This was surprising because I had trained mostly on the platform. In the finals, I won the silver medal for the platform. Unfortunately, I wasn't happy. Instead, I felt I failed because I hadn't won the gold. After that, I started training with Ron O'Brien, a well-known Olympic diving coach. Ron understood me and assisted me to work more intensely. I soon became the international leader
in diving. In the 1984 Olympics, I won two gold medals, one for platform, one for springboard. This was an enjoyable triumph.
No one knew then I was gay, except Ron and a few friends. I feared I would be hated if people found out. Four years later, while preparing for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, I learned my partner had AIDS. I had to accept I might be HIV-positive or have AIDS, too. When my HIV test results returned positive, I was shocked and confused. Was I dying? Had my shot at the '88 Olympics vaporized? What should I do? During this very difficult time, I couldn't tell anyone for fear I wouldn't be able to compete in the Olympics if people learned I was HIV-positive.
Everyone was alarmed when I hit my head on the board at the trials in Seoul. Regardless, I made it to the finals. When we practiced the next morning, my coach made me start with the dive I'd hit my head on. At first, I was scared, but Ron made me do it six times. With each repetition, I felt more confident.
During my last dive in the finals, I enjoyed for the last time the quietness underwater and then swam to the side of the pool. Afraid to look at the scoreboard, I watched Ron's face. Suddenly he leapt into the air, the crowd cheered, and I knew I'd won—two gold medals, one for the three-meter springboard and one for the ten-meter platform. No one knew how hard it had been, except Ron and the friends I'd told I was HIV-positive.
AIDS forced me to stop diving; I had to quit diving professionally after the Olympics.
Saturday, April 7
Steve and I hauled trash for four solid hours continuously, except for about five minutes when we stopped to talk. My shoulder hurt wickedly each time I put another full barrel on it, and my legs occasionally trembled as I was heading to the street, but the rest of me said, "Go, trashman, go."
I could not have imagined there would be joy in this. Dump. Lift. Walk. Lift. Walk. The hours flew by.
Saturday meant most adults were at home on the route. So were school-age children. I thought this might mean more exchanges as I made the rounds today. Many people were outdoors working in their gardens or greenhouses. Most looked approachable enough. There wasn't time for lengthy talks but enough to exchange greetings that go with civilized ways.
I was shocked to find that this wasn't the case.
I said hello in quite a few yards before the message registered that this wasn't normally done. Occasionally, I got a direct reply from someone who looked me in the eye, smiled, and asked, "How are you?" or "Isn't this a nice day?" I felt human then. But most often the response was either nothing at all, or a surprised stare because I had spoken.
One woman in a housecoat was startled as I came around the corner of her house. At the sound of my greeting, she gathered her housecoat tightly about her and retreated quickly indoors. I heard the lock click. Another woman had a huge, peculiar animal in her yard. I asked what it was. She stared at me. I thought she was deaf and spoke louder. She seemed frightened as she turned coldly away.
Steve raged spontaneously about these things on the long ride to the dump.
"The way most people look at you, you'd think a trashman was a monster. Say 'hello' and they stare at you in surprise. They don't realize we're human.
"One lady put ashes in her trashcan. I said we couldn't take them. She said, 'Who are you to say what goes? You're nothing but a trashman.' I told her, 'Listen, lady, I've got an IQ of 137, and I graduated near the top of my high school class. I do this for the money, not because it's the only work I can do.'
"I want to tell them, 'Look, I am as clean as you are,' but it wouldn't help. I don't tell anyone I'm a garbageman. I say I'm a truck driver. My family knows, but my wife's folks don't. If someone comes right out and asks, 'Do you drive for a garbage company?' I say yes. I believe we're doing a service people need, like being a police officer or a fire fighter. I'm not ashamed of it, but I don't go around boasting about it either.
"A friend of my wife yelled at her kids one day when they ran out to meet a trash truck. 'Stay away from those trashmen. They're dirty.' I was angry with her. 'They're as good as we are,' I told her. 'You seem to have a lot of sympathy for them,' she said'Yes, I do.' But I never told her why."
I had originally planned to stay at this employment for only two days but now I'm going to continue. The exercise is great; the lifting gets easier with every load, even if my shoulder muscles are sore. I become faster and neater each day. I'm outdoors in clean air. And, contrary to what people think, I don't get dirty on the job.
I have decided, too, to keep saying hello in people's yards. It doesn't do any harm, and it still feels right. Frankly, I'm proud. I'm doing an essential task. I left this country a little cleaner than I found it this morning. Not many people can say that each night.
John Gardner wrote that a society, which praises its philosophers and looks down on its plumbers, is in for trouble. "Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water," he warns. He might have gone a step further and called for respect for both our economists and our trashmen; otherwise, they'll both leave garbage behind.