by Timothy Hinkhouse
Hello there and happy holidays to those of you that get to read the words in this safe space! I don’t know what life is like beyond these walls because I have been in prison since the early 90’s. The holidays used to put people in a good head space or at least it did for the folks I used to know… Now I think the meaning of Christmas is way too commercialized from the shows I watch on television. I have a question for you. What does this time of year mean to you?
When I was out of prison I was the type of person that only cared about what I could get out of life no matter who I stepped on. Reflecting back on this time of my life, I was a real jerk to put it to you nicely. This was a bad time in my life when I was immature. Wow! I am sure glad that none of you knew me back then because you surely wouldn’t have liked me!
Now I am an adult man at the ripe old age of 48 years old. Being a long term survivor with the HIV virus I have been taught life lessons that I probably would have never learned without it. What do I mean by this you are probably wondering? Remember when I said that I used to be all about myself? Now I have patience, humility, compassion and a heart that is filled with love for others. I love to help people that need me and spend time with the people I love and care about.
Before I had become infected with HIV I didn’t even care about myself, so how could I care about anyone else? Over the years in the Oregon prison system I have learned how to be someone that could be counted on. I found the people that I gravitated to that were HIV positive had been homosexuals. They had their own issues of being discriminated against by other inmates and the staff. This association had put me in certain situations that ultimately led me into becoming an HIV advocate and standing up for my new found family members. I even had to bleed defending the rights and freedoms of my HIV positive family.
How is it living in free society with HIV? I can tell you that it is sometimes really difficult to be in a small populated community that knows everybody’s business. There are definite stigmas attached to being HIV positive even today with all of the information available. The most common thing I hear is that I must be a gay man because of my associations and my HIV status. Holy crap! I’ll say to you in frustration. How could people be so ignorant?! My job being an HIV advocate is never going to end at this rate! Look on the bright side, I guess??? I have job security, right? THANKS ignorant people! Sheesh!
Thankfully I am a large man that stands 6’3″ and I’m tipping the scales around 300lbs., so I don’t have many people that will say negative things to my face. For several years I have lived on units where most people don’t want to cause problems because they have it so good in here. They have good paying jobs and participate in programs that are only available to the men who stay out of trouble for more than 18 consecutive months. I guess that you can say that I earned my way onto this unit and I’d like to stay here?!
My job for the last 5 years at this prison has been the morning barber on my unit. For four of the last five years I have been a volunteer barber down in the infirmary for the sick folks and the permanently disabled that require full time hands-on-care. I love visiting the fellas down there and cheering them up. Every time I go down there I always have a joke to tell them too! I don’t know if you’ll get what I’m about to say…
When I leave to come back to my unit, I always feel that I got something from them. The challenges some of them have to endure inspires me to keep on living my life with gratitude for what I have. I’ve found that I learn the little things that life is going to teach me in the strangest places. I am a better person for being able to listen and apply the things I’ve learned.
I want to encourage each one of you reading this to pay attention to the little things in your life that might be trying to show you something that you didn’t know before or you are being reminded of once again in case you forgot. Have a great New Years and please be safe out there?!
I hope that I have shared something with you that you can use in your day to day lives? Please share this to anyone you think would benefit from someone on the inside that wants to inspire anyone on the outside. Be kind to others. Tim
To read Tim’s Blog: http://www.thebody.com/content/76435/hiv-on-the-inside.html
To connect with Tim on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/timothy.hinkhouse.1
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