“Put your hand over your heart. Do you feel your heart beating? That’s where our work begins, in our hearts.”
As I sat in the audience at my first HIV Speaks on Jones Street and listened to Sable Nelson tell us about why our work matters, I could feel my heart beating and I just knew I was in the right place.
As a young person interested in public health and nonprofit work, I often find myself with a lot of passion and nowhere to put it. There are days that I feel like I’m not smart enough or rich enough or powerful enough to do the work that really matters. I’m ready to get out there and fight for what I believe in, and I don’t always know where to start. But I know I’ve got the heart for it, because when I’m in the right place I can just feel it. When I’m surrounded by people who have a fire in their hearts for creating positive change, that warmth can be felt for miles.
I felt the fire when I got accepted to UNC-Chapel Hill and started taking classes about poverty, inequality, public health, and racial injustice. I was surrounded by people who genuinely believed that the world could be a much better place and they pushed me to put my words into action and get involved in the Durham-Chapel Hill community.
I felt the fire when I started hanging out with kids at the Durham County Youth Home as part of UNC’s Criminal Justice Awareness and Action Committee. I met kids who had accomplished more in 15 years than many of us will accomplish in a lifetime. They taught me how to look forward to the future and always find ways to make myself and my community a little better.
I felt the fire when I started interning at SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives for Teens) this summer and I was surrounded by people who are so steadfastly committed to making sure that young people in North Carolina can grow up happy and healthy. These folks are working hard every day to make lasting change in communities all around the state, and they do it with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts.
And I felt the fire at the North Carolina General Assembly this week as I was surrounded by people who have dedicated their lives and their hearts to fighting for a better life for people living with HIV and AIDS. I looked around the room and I knew I was sharing space with some of the most amazing people our state has to offer and I felt so lucky. To learn from these folks and listen to their advice is an experience that I will treasure for a long time.
Sable Nelson told us that our work begins in our hearts, and that we should always put our hearts into everything we do. I couldn’t agree more. My heart is committed to this work and to the people who are doing this work alongside me. Many thanks to NCAAN and the other sponsors for reminding me what it’s like to feel my own heart beating for the things that matter most to me. There is much work still to be done, but I can feel the fire burning and I know we are moving in the right direction.