Giraffes, the Holy Fool & Finding the Rainbow

foolThe Holy Fool is the most dangerous person on earth, Joseph Campbell explained , the most threatening to all hierarchical institutions, because he ignores their power. He has no concern for naysayers. He’s unfazed by risk. He’s not limited by his limitations, not listening to reason, not stoppable, not controllable. He knows what he has to do and he’s doing it, no matter what.

~Ann Medlock, Founder and Director of The Giraffe Heroes Project

So if someone calls you a Fool, take it as a compliment.  Let it be a reminder that you’re walking a Sacred Path, even if it looks as if the road ahead is actually a drop off the cliff face.

~Kimberly Schneider, M.Ed, J.D., LPC

It is very important that you only do what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may lose your car, you may have to move into a shabby place to live, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do.

~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross MD.

Never lose hope in the human spirit; we all go through things in life not knowing if we are capable of getting through them. But those who choose to face their fears and walk through the storms will see the rainbows on the other side.

~Gerri Briggs [Gerri Briggs has AIDS. In a period of 3 years, she lost her 2 year old son, her 34 year old husband and her 29 year old brother..all of them died of AIDS.]


I haven’t written anything in quite a while.. too discouraged. I’ve counted on inspiration ever since I started writing this blog last November but any and all inspiration left completely and I’ve quit writing as I’ve entered into another dark night of the soul*

Still in the midst of darkness, I want to write today about a few things that have helped me hold on and keep going.  I want to write about The Giraffe Heroes Project. and The Holy Fool and as I write I’m also going to talk about the gofundme campaign that I’ve started and the reasons why.


Every where I turn comes advice, mostly unasked for, sometimes condescending. “You’re coming out of lack” wrote one person, implying this situation I’m in* is my fault. “Maybe” I wrote back “but what about all the AIDS patients we took care of back in the 80s…proud, talented, successful people who suddenly lost everything because of their disease and so often had to depend on the kindness of strangers. Were they coming out of lack?”

*[No need to go into the details but just to say that  this past year EVERY single thing I tried to do and nearly every part of my life fell apart, crashed, didn’t work. RITES OF PASSAGE/AIDS Care and Assistance,the non profit I founded 28 years ago lost all its funding 15 months ago..believing the funding was coming back, I used all my savings to keep things going..until I lost everything. Over and over I’ve been knocked flat and I mean really flat. Over and over I’ve picked myself up only to be flattened again. A terrible depression has come over me ..I don’t sleep..I’ve mostly lost my faith which had kept me going for so many years. I’ve felt like a fool..making all the wrong decisions..questioning all that I’ve done]

jason breathing tube 2I’ve spent the last 28 years of my life working with and caring for people who some might say were “coming out of lack”: Native Americans,little boy-camp-1 people coming out of prison,prison interior people who were dying…..and from them I’ve learned the most valuable lessons one could ever learn.  My work with people with AIDS…File_01 joe:aids …was the reason I became a Giraffe Hero which is what I’m writing about today-The Giraffe Heroes Project.

Pickard, Cindyme:ot:hospice art

Occupational therapist Cindy Pickard of Austin, Texas, gave up her regular work to start AIDS Care and Assistance, a program that trains and places caregivers for people with AIDS so they can continue to live at home.

  • health/public health/disabilities

Giraffe work location(s): North America, US, Texas
Home when commended: North America, US, Texas
Home now: North America, US, Texas
Gender: F (female)

The Giraffe Heroes Project is  a bright light in a dark world

You can read about THE GIRAFFE HEROES PROJECT here but in a nutshell The Giraffe Heroes Project “honors compassionate risk-takers, people who are largely unknown, people who have the courage to stick their necks out for the common good, in the US and around the world.”





 Years ago, I visited the office international headquarters The Giraffe Heroes Project in Langley, Washington. It was during another difficult time in my life, the early days of providing home care for people with AIDS, and I followed the giraffe hoof prints leading up to the office to meet with the founder and director, Ann Medlock. When I began to tell Ann what I was going through, she gave me this story to read, her story about starting The Giraffe Project.

[The following story is adapted from the words of Ann Medlock, Founder and Director of The Giraffe Heroes Project]

“In those days of getting the Project started, friends and family were asking Ann why she was putting so much into something that could well be a lost cause. Flying off to Paris to write a speech for the Aga Khan hadn’t been a bad way to make a living. Why was she going on and on with this Giraffe thing? She wasn’t sure herself.

She got the answer on a trip west, at a seminar Joseph Campbell was giving at Esalen. Ann had attended Campbell’s classes whenever he taught in New York City: She couldn’t pass up this chance to hear Campbell talk for a full weekend on the story of Parsifal.

fool 3Campbell showed Parsifal as a recurring theme in mythology, the story of the Holy Fool. This Fool is always considered a dummy by the smart, hip people who really know the score. In Parsifal’s case, there’s a mysterious blight on the land, nothing will grow and no one knows how to break the spell. Parsifal, the Holy Fool, sets out to find the cause, right the wrong, and save the people. He’s told he can’t do it, that he’s too dumb, too weak, too everything. But he goes ahead anyway, breaking the curse on the land and bringing life back to the people.

The Holy Fool is the most dangerous person on earth, Campbell explained, the most threatening to all hierarchical institutions, because he ignores their power. He has no concern for naysayers. He’s unfazed by risk. He’s not limited by his limitations, not listening to reason, not stoppable, not controllable. He knows what he has to do and he’s doing it, no matter what.

Driving up the California coast after the seminar, Ann had what later seemed to her an obvious revelation—the reason she had been so obsessed with finding Giraffes and telling their stories was that these individuals were our time’s Holy Fools; she had locked into an archetype that had her in thrall, one that was desperately needed in the spiritual blight of the 1980’s. No matter what it took, she would go on.

Back in New York, she had lunch with Campbell and told him what she was doing, what his seminar had made clear to her, how grateful she was that he’d shown her the reason for her obsession. She was amazed to see his eyes well up, and delighted to have his endorsement of her quest.”

stick your neck out

Ann Medlock, Founder and Director of THE GIRAFFE HEROES PROJECT

This story about the Holy Fool gave me the courage that I needed then to go on. Being a Giraffe gives me the courage to keep on keeping on.

A few days ago, I emailed Ann to tell her I was going through another difficult time and wanted to ask her advice. I told her that after trying everything I could think of, I had started a gofundme campaign . People I had worked with over the past 28 years had written letters and stories and these I combined with photos and film clips. I thought it was a good story and some good friends had donated but I thought it needed some publicity/media coverage.

I had just read a story about a woman who wanted to become a nun but in order to do so, she had to pay off her student loans. In a two week period she had raised $23,000 and gotten a lot of national publicity. Surely my story, which is a giraffe story would be worthy of some publicity?

Ann suggested linking this blog to the Giraffe Facebook page and that’s the reason I’m writing today. It’s very hard for me to try to raise money for myself. I never have’s always been for the nonprofit, RITES OF PASSAGE AIDS Care and Assistance..or for someone else.

Several people have suggested recently that it was time for me to put myself first, to take care of myself. You’ve done enough they say but I don’t really think that’s true. With some help and support, the phoenix can rise from the ashes and create again. I don’t think Giraffes ever give up!giraffe_john's book

So here’s my gofundme campaign site. It’s some of the best of my work and I WILL continue on with some help and support. Financial support doesn’t just mean money. It means someone believes in you, cares and understands.It’s a kind of humility that says “As I’m helping you now, I understand that a time may well come, when I too, will have to ask for help.”

 If you’re reading this and you’re saying to yourself “that would never happen to me, I’ve made all the right choices and decisions. I’m protected.”, you may be surprised. As the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle says “If you’re not being challenged by life right now, just wait a little, it’ll come.”

PS You can check out our award winning FILMS here….these documentaries, a record of our work over the last 28 years, are on a variety of subjects: Hospice, AIDS, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Dannion Brinkley/Near Death Experience, Loss and Grief, Native American teachings, Sustainable Living, Aging etc. and many are used by nursing schools, hospices, hospitals, libraries and universities throughout the US and Canada. In fact just a few minutes ago, I got an order from a nursing supervisor at MD Anderson in Houston for our award winning film on the loss oF a child, TURNING TOWARD THE MORNING

Below are 2 GREAT film clips about THE GIRAFFE HEROES PROJECT and how it began..very worth watching! I’m also posting a clip from Gabor Mate, MD…I just discovered this clip a few nights ago and it meant a lot to me..the last statements in particular are very relevant to Giraffes and what the world needs now







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