David Patient inspired me when I first met him fifteen years ago and he inspires me still. He and his partner, Neil Orr, are masters of assessing any situation and finding a way to make it workable which in their world means alive, challenging and fruitful. They know how to dance.
They will never occupy the space of the helpless victim. They will rarely accept stasis. They thrive on new ideas, new approaches, new angles and movement. Over the last twenty years they have worked all over Africa to empower thousands upon thousands, from top executives to rural grannies. Much of their work has been HIV related as David has carried his HIV diagnosis since 1983 when they still called it GRIDS.
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. —Alan W. Watts
Phrases like ‘make a plan’ and ‘move the cheese’ float freely around their farm in Mpumalanga, South Africa where I lived for six good years. I quickly came to understand their dynamic approach to all challenges when I arrived on their doorstep, a near stranger, with a cancerous lump in my breast. They had me up and fighting in no time, empowered by their wise counsel and their example.
It was always with a sense of excitement that I would bring my problems and heartaches to David and Neil on the weekends when I came up to the farm from my work in the rural township of Acornhoek. Sitting on their coach, I would lay it all out and we would apply ourselves as though working on a complex jigsaw puzzle. One instance—too many unemployed women in the village? Make a plan, form a group, get donations for a fence making machine. I always left with a new perspective, a new sometimes startling plan, and a polished, shiny sense of the possible.
They are agile. They are nimble. They taught me well.
Currently, David is facing serious health challenges, and, though 9,000 miles away, I watch as he continues to move nimbly with this complex process. He meets each situation head on and continues to make it a beautiful dance, his dance.
He inspires many, including me; makes me laugh and fills me with hope for all of us as he rides each new wave with wit, will, grit and grace.
If he can handle yet another trip to the hospital, yet another invasive procedure, then surely I can find a way to stop clenching against the rain, the reality of the refugees, the mass shootings, and Donald Trump. I give thanks to you, David, for your inspiration. May we all learn to meet the present with the attitude of a dance master.