I just consumed a book that is now on my short list, The Gifts of the Body by Rebecca Brown. I already blogged briefly about The Last Time I Saw You by the same author which I also loved, but The Gifts of the Body pulls the social worker strings in me. It goes back to the essential. The narrator is a home-care worker who assists people living with and dying of AIDS. The writing style is very simple. She describes moving people's bodies over to change sheets, sounding upbeat no matter what decline and disintegration the narrator is witnessing, the narrators loss and reacquisition of hope through mourning.
I was drawn to this book. I have always considered myself what we call in my field a mezzo (groups and families) and macro (larger systems such as administration and policy) systems social worker. But this book appeared at a time that I have been craving direct micro contact with the reason I do the work I do. There have been days recently that I have considered volunteering at a homeless shelter serving food or working at a hospice. The simple act of receiving through being present and giving is what I yearn for and what this book describes. In some ways, it is so different from The Last Time I Saw You, which is mostly about failed or screwed up from the beginning relationships, but the two books are similar in the fact that they are real and visceral. Plus, The Gifts of the Body gets us to the heart of the reason why finding ways to prolong the lives of those suffering with HIV/AIDS is not enough.
In the middle of my reading, at the Seattle-Tacoma International airport, a long haired bearded young man with a baseball cap on which was written Alaska started talking to me. He told me about a trip he took hitchhiking around the southern portion of Africa and how he traveled for months with an inflammed gum because he was afraid to have his wisdom tooth pulled in an AIDS stricken land. And while I rambled on about the Bush administration's abstinence policies regarding sexual health services to sex workers and monogomous married women, he described the people he met that were probably no longer alive...
Micro versus macro all over again.