I am not sure exactly why my husband and I ended up at the movie Philadelphia in early 1994. As a couple, we have not historically been big on going to movies together. I think it was a night out with a group of friends. Wayne loves Bruce Springsteen (who sang the movie’s theme song) too so maybe that nudged us there.
It was a raw time in our lives, a hauntingly raw time. Wayne’s sister had just died in her sleep at the age of 30, weeks before. I remember sitting by him in the theater wondering what kind of grief reaction the movie’s topic would induce.
Andrew Beckett, the character played by Tom Hanks, was a rising star in a high-profile law firm. As his AIDS diagnosis came to light (as well as his sexual preference), he was released from the firm.
Andrew hired one of the only attorneys who would take his case: Joe Miller, played by Denzel Washington. Joe Miller took on a problem he had no business taking on (from the outer world’s perspective), that of representing Andrew. He didn’t practice the right kind of law. He didn’t drive the right kind of car, live in the right kind of house, or have a diploma from the right kind of school hanging on his wall.
Although I was still in mourning for Wayne’s sister myself, the stronger pull of the film for me was the way it brought back to life all of the conversations I had as a counselor on the Florida AIDS Hotline when it first began (around 1987). Andrew’s struggle to navigate family and society dynamics unearthed the emotions I had felt when someone I loved told me he was gay.
Andrew’s mantra, through all of the doubt pervading his world, was:
EVERY PROBLEM HAS A SOLUTION
Although I have many favorite quotes (some of them listed here), and I love a well turned, elegant phrase, the truth and simplicity of this quote never fails to inspire me to keep trying, to entertain novel solutions to deeply entrenched problems, and to hope for a bright outcome even in times of darkness.
That is how I feel about being a part of Shot at Life. It would be easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues facing children around the world who are dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. It is hard to figure out how to get a vaccine to a child in some remote part of the world – how to physically get the vaccine to that child, how to get his or her mother to trust that the vaccine is something that will benefit their child, how to coordinate multiple moving parts to create a curative whole which will help as many children as possible make it to their fifth birthdays.
But I do believe “every problem has a solution.” I don’t always know what that solution is or how I personally can apply it, but I do know turning my back on this problem is not a solution. That is why I meet with my legislators and their staffs to encourage United States support of global immunization issues; it is why I learn as much as I can, from people who think differently and more creatively than me. It is why I cling tightly to the idea that one person, one idea, one conversation can make a difference.
Won’t you join me in making a difference today?
During Shot@Life’s Blogust 2015—a month-long blog relay—some of North America’s most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share inspirational quotes for their children. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or take action using the social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, one vaccine will be donated to a child around the world (up to 50,000).