Randy Granger

Randy Granger
In the Chihuahuan Desert near the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advocating for compassion and getting paid.

I would rather feel compassion than know the meaning of it. Thomas Aquinas:

Monday is the 20th annual World AIDS Day an event that hopes to bring light to the continuing Pandemic of HIV disease and AIDS. In my community there will be an event with speakers, information, free testing and me providing music. Check my calendar for details. As a musician, and like many artists, I get asked to provide music and entertainment for many causes. Recently a radio interviewer was commenting on how I am at so many benefits and fundraisers performing. With a chuckle in her voice she said that obviously I’m not getting paid and why do I do them and how do I decide on which ones to support. I could feel the resentment rising in me like yesterday’s enchiladas so I took deep breath and said I would do more if I could afford it and that I let my Heart decide. That ended that line of questions thankfully.
The truth is that I do get many requests to use my music and to perform for so many causes that I have lost track. Nonetheless, I decided years back that I would be an advocate for compassion whether it be for Relay for Life, Animals, Hospice care, HIV, Cancer, Prisoner rights, Native Americans…you name it I’ve leant my music, time and talent to it. Sometimes it has only been me and organizers who showed up but hey I was there. When I lived in Albuquerque I worked for the All Indian Pueblo Council as my day job while playing bars, clubs, festivals etc. with my alternative band The Peat Column at night. Through an IHS grant I would visit all 19 New Mexico Pueblos doing HIV/AIDS outreach and education. Oh yeah that went over well. Tribal councils would schedule a presentation with me at 6 pm then sometime around 1 am would tell me to come back tomorrow. This is the Indian way of making someone prove their commitment. Oh man it paid so poorly, (we called it Rez wages) that I fell behind on student loan payments so they garnished my wages and after rent I had nothing left so my car was repo’d. Them were some lean days brother. I had to leave and find another job on the bus route and buy a used, ancient Honda civic wagon. I did write a good blues song out of the whole experience to good for that.

That job came after being a volunteer for an HIV speaker’s bureau that took me into prisons, schools, medical schools, and government and teaching programs. I had lost some friends to AIDS and have always volunteered places. The thing about compassion is it is free from judgment. You feel that empathy regardless of circumstance. We tend to think in the West that AIDS is a gay, white male disease but the current reality is that: *

• More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981.
• Africa has 11.6 million AIDS orphans.
• At the end of 2007, women accounted for 50% of all adults living with HIV worldwide, and for 59% in sub-Saharan Africa.
• Around 67% of people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.
• Young people (under 25 years old) account for half of all new HIV infections worldwide.

These statistics affect us all. Think of the 11.6 million AIDS orphans in Africa. It wouldn’t take much for a war lord with promise to offer a direction to these children that makes them feel empowered and loyal to a really destructive way of life and if you follow events in Somalia, The Congo, Nigeria etc. you know that is dangerous. In developing and transitional countries, 9.7 million people are in immediate need of life-saving AIDS drugs; of these, only 2.99 million (31%) are receiving the drugs. See while in the prosperous nations people are seeing AIDS as a chronic, manageable illness, citizens of less prosperous nations die of simple things like dysentery and diarrhea—something we might take for granted. Mother Theresa received a check for $500 from a wealthy British man who read about her plight in then Calcutta and he received a very quick letter back. He expected a florid thank you note instead he found a scrap of paper saying, “We need much more than that.” That is the thing about compassion—it is selfless and reminds us we are connected and certainly not alone. We are, as indigenous cultures know, are interconnected.

Next Friday there is a CD release fundraiser that I am so honored to be a part of. It is for La Casa which is a shelter and program for domestic violence victims and their children. New Mexico has a pretty big problem with that and I’ve done programs for them in the past. I was really humbled to be asked to be included and am looking forward to the CD “Peace Begins at Home.” Here is a link to a story about it. http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-sunlife/ci_11090673
The number of people living with HIV has risen from around 8 million in 1990 to 33 million today, and is still growing. There is no room for blame when it comes to compassion unless you point the finger at yourself first. Be an advocate for compassion and the world will soften. Like the Dalai Lama said; “Compassion is the radicalism of our time.” And to close with Mother Theresa’s famous quote; “We cannot do great things, only little things with great big love.” Remember that when you feel overwhelmed. -Randy

more info: * http://www.avert.org/statindx.htm