莫視而不見

梅琳達.蓋茲解釋何以要在印度從事格外艱困的志業, 以及自己最強大的武器是懷抱希望
Melinda gates◎撰

0
194
Photograph by the voorhes

十年前我和朋友赴印度旅遊。行程最後一天,我花了點時間和賣淫的婦女碰面。我原本想跟她們談有關愛滋病的風險,沒想到她們想談的卻是汙名化。這些婦女大多因丈夫遺棄而淪落風塵,極力掙錢供孩子溫飽。在社會大眾眼裏,她們低賤到任誰都可以蹂躪、劫掠和毆打,施暴者甚至包括警察,卻無人聞問。

和她們聊起她們的生活令我感慨萬千,但令我印象最深刻的是,她們多麼地希望碰觸我及被我碰觸,這樣的肢體接觸彷彿多少能證明她們的價值。離開前我們大夥一塊合照,所有的人手挽着手。

那天稍晚,我在安寧之家待了一會兒。我走進一間大廳,看到一排又一排的行軍床,每張床都有人照料,唯獨遠處角落裏的一張床附近沒人,因此我走過去。病人是個年約三十多歲的婦人。我忘不了她的眼神,一雙棕色大眼充滿哀傷。她骨瘦如柴,奄奄一息,大小便完全失禁,所以被放在底下挖了個洞的床上,排遺直接落入床下的盆裏。

從她的外表和獨自待在角落這兩項事實,我知道她患了愛滋病。愛滋病患被嚴重汙名化,尤其是女性,懲罰的方式就是遺棄。

來到她床邊時,我突然覺得全然無助,幫不上一丁點忙。我知道自己救不了她,但我不希望她覺得孤單。因此我在她床邊跪下,伸手摸她;而她一感覺到我的手,立刻緊握不放。我們這樣握手坐着,就算知道她聽不懂我的話,我還是開始說:「沒關係,這不是你的錯,不是你的錯。」

我們相處了一會兒之後,她伸手往上指。我花了點時間才明白她想上頂樓,趁天還亮時到外頭坐坐。

我問一名女性工作人員能不能帶她上樓,但對方因病人太多早已忙得不可開交,她說:「她快斷氣了,而我現在得發藥。」時候不早了,太陽逐漸西沉,似乎沒人願意帶她上樓。

於是最後我一把抱起她。她只剩皮包骨,真是形銷骨立。我帶她上樓。頂樓有兩、三張強風一吹就會翻倒的塑膠椅。我把她放在一張椅子上,幫忙拿另一張椅子來撐放她的腳,然後用毯子蓋住她腿部。

她面朝西而坐,觀賞夕陽。我讓工作人員知道她在樓上,好讓他們日落後帶她下來。接着,我不得不撇下她。可她一直在我心底縈繞不去。

有時候,你愛莫能助之人反倒給你最大的啟示。我知道早上和我手挽着手的性工作者,傍晚可能變成我抱上樓的婦女──除非她們找到對抗籠罩一生汙名的辦法。

對我而言,樂觀並不是被動地期待局面會改觀,而是堅信我們可以讓局面改觀;堅信不論看到何種苦難、不論情況多麼惡劣,只要我們不放棄希望、不視而不見,就可以幫助他人。


比爾.蓋茲與妻子梅琳達聯名的基金會迄今已捐助二億五千八百萬美元於印度的愛滋病防治計畫。本文摘自梅琳達.蓋茲在史丹福大學二○一四年畢業典禮上的致詞。



Don’t Look Away

Ten years ago, I traveled to India with friends. On the last day there, I spent some time meeting with prostitutes. I expected to talk to them about the risk of AIDS, but they wanted to talk about stigma. Most of these women had been abandoned by their husbands, and that’s why they’d gone into prostitution. They were trying to make enough money to feed their kids. They were so low in the eyes of society that they could be raped and robbed and beaten by anybody—even by police—and nobody cared.

Talking to them about their lives was so moving to me. But what I remember most is how much they wanted to touch me and be touched. It was as if physical contact somehow proved their worth. As I was leaving, we took a photo of all of us with our arms linked together.

Later that day, I spent some time in a home for the dying. I walked into a large hall and saw rows and rows of cots. Every cot was attended except for one far off in the corner that no one was going near, so I walked over there. The patient was a woman who seemed to be in her 30s. I remember her eyes. She had these huge, brown, sorrowful eyes. She was emaciated, on the verge of death. Her intestines weren’t holding anything, so they had put her on a cot with a hole cut out in the bottom, and every­thing just poured through into a pan below.

I could tell she had AIDS, both from the way she looked and the fact that she was off in the corner alone. The stigma of AIDS is vicious—especially for women—and the punishment is abandonment.

When I arrived at her cot, I suddenly felt totally helpless. I had absolutely nothing I could offer her. I knew I couldn’t save her, but I didn’t want her to be alone. So I knelt down next to her and reached out to touch her—and as soon as she felt my hand, she grabbed it and wouldn’t let go. We sat there holding hands, and even though I knew she couldn’t understand me, I just started saying, “It’s OK. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.”

We had been there together for a while when she pointed upward with her finger. It took me some time to figure out that she wanted to go up to the roof and sit outside while it was still light out. I asked one of the workers if that would be OK, but she was overwhelmed by all the patients she had to care for. She said, “She’s in the last stages of dying, and I have to pass out medicine.” It was getting late and the sun was going down, and no one seemed willing to take her upstairs.

So finally I scooped her up—she was just skin over a skeleton, just a sack of bones—and I carried her up the stairs. On the roof there were a few of those plastic chairs that will blow over in a strong breeze. I set her down on one, helped prop her feet up on another, and placed a blanket over her legs.

And she sat there with her face to the west, watching the sunset. I made sure the workers knew that she was up there so they could come get her after the sun went down. Then I had to leave her. But she never left me.

Sometimes it’s the people you can’t help who inspire you the most. I knew that the sex workers I linked arms with in the morning could become the woman I carried upstairs that evening—­unless they found a way to defy the stigma that hung over their lives.

Optimism for me isn’t a passive expectation that things will get better. It’s a conviction that we can make things better—that whatever suffering we see, no matter how bad it is, we can help people if we don’t lose hope and we don’t look away.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here