The rain, which kindly subsided on Day One early in the morning, pounded steadily all day on the Soulforce – Dignity/USA delegation on our second day in Rome. The morning was unscheduled, some sleeping due to jet lag, others taking advantage of the opportunity to stroll the streets of Rome, visiting sites or doing shopping.
At 11:30, we assembled at the hotel to prepare and wrap our gifts for the AIDS patients at a nearby hospital. Walking to the Vatican today as the rain beat down on our umbrellas proved more arduous than the day before, as thousands of "pilgrims" with their umbrellas also tried to stay dry on their trip to visit the Vatican.
Proceeding to the police barrier at the Via Della Conciliazione, our spot for the vigils, we put our umbrellas down, formed a "human Christmas tree", and held our gifts in the air. As we let the rain wash over us, we sang songs and praised God, waiting for the blessings of our gifts. No police came today, nor did a priest come to bless our gifts, but several tourists stopped to watch. After no blessing seemed forthcoming, we put our umbrellas up and headed for the AIDS hospital.
Cold and wet, the bus provided shelter from the rain and warmed our toes. Our gifts were as wet as we were, but it did not dampen our spirits. JD’s guitar finally arrived in Rome, after being lost by the airline. As we rode in the bus, he played his guitar and we sang songs as we prepared our spirits for the visit to the hospital.
Still wearing our sweat-shirts that read "God’s Gay Children Bring Gifts … Bless Them", we were greeted warmly and graciously by the hospital administrator, a nun with a generous spirit and a warm heart. We met with several patients in the library of the hospital, placing our gifts in the center of the table. Feeling somewhat intimidated by the Americans bearing gifts, only a few patients gathered to see us there. Those that did, helped themselves to some of our gifts, as we sang songs and talked to them with the help of our translator, Julia.
After several songs, the hospital administrator decided to relax hospital policy, and lead us through the corridors to the patients. The joy on the faces of the patients was only exceeded by the joy of our delegation as we watched delight light up their eyes as we entered their rooms with gifts or serenaded them from the halls, led by JD on the guitar.
After giving out all our presents, the rest of the day was spent touring Rome from the warmth and dryness of the bus, stopping briefly for pictures at the Spanish Steps, the Forum and the Coliseum. Upon returning to our hotel, we worked out the plans for the next days actions, went to dinner, looked at the news reports and pictures in the Italian papers of our first day’s action, and chatted among ourselves about another successful day in Rome.
Tomorrow, the weather may not be any better, but we continue to look forward to the blessing we receive from God and from each other, whether or not we are blessed by the Vatican for our gifts as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and allied children of God..