Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mildred Richard

Mildred is beautiful. Her welcome is warm and her joy is contagious. I met her at Friends for Life where she works full time as a Peer Mentor. Mildred’s story is a story of challenges. Her mother is addicted to crack and left Mildred, when she was eight years old, with infant twin sisters. Mildred and the babies lived with their grandmother who had serious health problems and an aunt who lives with mental illness. Mildred dropped out of school in the sixth grade so she could work and help to support her family. Family loyalty kept Mildred going when her energy was low. She got two jobs and an apartment for herself and the twins. One night she was cleaning the apartment and took a bag of trash outside. In the darkness by the dumpster, Mildred was raped. That crime changed Mildred’s life story in many ways. She was pregnant. And she was infected with HIV. Her son, Malachi, is a gift and a miracle in Mildred’s life. She looked into his eyes and saw a reflection of herself. The tiny baby was inviting Mildred to see her own life as a miracle. Her HIV status took her to Friends for Life where she found support and encouragement. Hope House provided daycare and parenting classes. She got assistance for returning to school. Mildred did an internship at LeBonheur. She now speaks to businesses, civic organizations and classes about her HIV status. She shares her story as a source of encouragement for others who live with the disease. She listens to the stories of people who feel that life has ended because they have been diagnosed as HIV positive. Mildred assures them that a new life has just begun. When you see Mildred’s joyful face, you have to believe that life, with all of its challenges, is a miracle.

Elaine Blanchard

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