Houston: Christmas at Thomas Street Clinic
Masterpiece of Love By Laura Going
I arrived at the towering Thomas Street Clinic just after 4. Mapquest had given me some slightly less than clear directions. The building spread out behind an iron fence in all its majestic glory. I walked inside and was greeted by some wonderful nurses that directed me to the decorating crew. I was introduced to Ms. Jackie, a volunteer and employee at Thomas Street Clinic. She greeted me with open arms and ushered me into yet another beautiful room where another volunteer, Thomas from Pasadena, was assembling the trees that would be gracing each floor. Ms. Jackie set me to work helping. While we worked I asked her a few questions about the building. She told me that it was built during the 1930s and when the clinic opened that it was severely dilapidated. You would never believe that by the buildingâ€™s structure and dÃ©cor.
As we were assembling the trees Maushmi entered the room. I had never met her face to face, but had spoken to her many times. We set to work getting the trees up to the other floors. We were joined by some amazing volunteers from Clark Construction. They were energetic and everyone was having so much fun. We then all went down to the second floor and took some group pictures. After finishing up the decorating process, making sure there were no fire hazards and every surface had some sort of holiday cheer, we all trooped up to the fourth floor. We gathered around and listened to everyone introduce themselves and tell a little about why they were there. It was amazing the stories that began to come out of people. They were all there for different reasons. Surrounded by strangers they began to open up and let people see some very intimate parts of their lives. Ms. Jackie told the story of her son. He was diagnosed with AIDS for eight years before he came to his mother and told her. She immediately moved to Houston to help him. He had lost his job and his insurance and he was alone. After his death she remained at a request from her son, â€œDonâ€™t forget the people at Thomas Street Clinic.â€ She offered us story after story, examples, and reconciled common misconceptions about AIDS. Her pain and inspiration seeped through our skin and into our hearts. We heard from one of the men from Clark about his father figure who was diagnosed with brain cancer and how he had to be the father figure and take care of him while he died. These strangers, never met some of the people before, and worked with some, risking looking weak; it was a beautiful sight. The whole experience was heart-warming and refreshing. Even though we didnâ€™t get to see the patientâ€™s faces when they saw what we had done we felt their excitement just the same. As I pulled away from Thomas Street Clinic that night, the hulking masterpiece of love behind me, I felt warmer and more secure than I have in a long time.