It is no secret, especially for those that know me – I love professional bike racing. I watch races from Europe a few times per week. It's a passion.
Recently, however, I'm finding it harder and harder to watch the events. Races in France, Italy, Belgium, Spain - the crowds are a fraction of their pre-COVID numbers, but the fans showing up roadside – far too many aren't wearing masks. It causes me great distress. I think about all the people who are impacted by what seems like a very personal decision. I think about Juan Diego.
Juan Diego, not his real name, was a former young person in the Casa Girasoles program. He lived in a couple of the Casa Girasole's houses over a few years. I met him over 20 years ago.
We got reconnected with JD when another former Girasol posted a video on social media asking for help. JD had recently developed symptoms suggestive of COVID and needed support. From the time JD's friend posted the video to his death was less than a week.
It's not supposed to be this way. JD was a young man in the prime of his life. He was just starting his life after a childhood and adolescence filled with so much trauma – he shouldn't have died this way.
We did everything we could. We helped with medication. We advocated for better care. We committed to pay for any care JD needed. They were scared. JD's wife, also young and repairing her life from years of trauma, didn't want to go to the hospital. When we finally created a plan, a plan that held everyone's opinions as necessary, it was too late. JD had over 95% pulmonary compromise. The hospital could do nothing.
It's not supposed to be this way. It doesn't have to be this way. We can work together to protect everyone. One thing we can all do is wear a mask. Wearing a mask is not only about protecting ourselves, our neighbors, and our communities – it's about saving the world.
What does this have to do with a former street boy named JD? Everything. You see, we are a connected globe—so much of what happens in Calcutta impacts what happens in Lima and what happens in Topeka. We're connected. Wearing a mask is more than a personal decision. It is a collective commitment to humanity.
The pandemic is far from over. It rages in some of the most under-resourced places on the planet. We are, however, the path to protection and prevention. It all starts and ends in our united call to action. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Travel responsibly. And, most of all – accept our collective obligation to global humanity. The JD's of the world need us!
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.