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Racing past illness and bias toward love

By Shane Stanford, Special to CNN
  • Shane Stanford is husband and father, author, and a pastor
  • He is racing against illness and fear: Stanford is an HIV-positive hemophiliac
  • Journey has shown relationships, simplicity, giving are most important
  • "No matter how I try to describe myself, I am more than the sum of what I can say"
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Family
  • Hattiesburg

Editor's note: America's 300 million-plus people are declaring their identity in the 2010 Census this year. This piece is part of a special series on in which people describe how they see their own identity. Shane Stanford is pastor of Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church, a husband, father of three, HIV positive for more than 20 years and author of "A Positive Life."

(CNN) -- I am Shane Stanford. To my family, I am a husband of 20 years and the boastful father of three.

To my congregation of nearly 5,000, I am a pastor.

To my readers, I am the author of nine Christian books.

To my friends, I am one of the guys.

And, to so many over the years who have known my story, I am a man in a race -- a race against illness, against fear, against discrimination. A race against my own body. A race against time.

A hemophiliac since birth, I discovered my HIV status at 16. It was life-changing news, the result of a contaminated blood supply.

And, so, the race began.

It has included many twists and turns: from the joy of marrying my high school sweetheart to the sorrow of being rejected by the first church to which I was appointed as pastor.

Certainly, the race has never been easy. It is often long and difficult.

Name: Shane Stanford
Age: 39
Birthplace: Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Home: Gulf Breeze, Florida
Occupation: Pastor of Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church, writer

However, the race now impacts me in so many ways. And, oddly enough, I would not trade it with anyone. Instead, the journey affords me a glimpse into the best of what each of us can become. The race has made me a student, and no day goes by that it doesn't teach me a lesson.

About time: A privilege afforded to us to make a difference in this world.

About relationships: The most important things we do are not done alone.

About simplicity: More, bigger, nicer, pale in comparison to gifts like sunsets and the laughter of children at play.

About real meaning... and about myself: Life is more a mosaic than a measurable frame of joys and sorrows, laughter and tears. Real meaning is discovered through the composition of life's diversity. No color can adequately define a mosaic, any more than one hardship, failure or achievement can define a person's life. The diversity of these images brought together unveil who I really am. No matter how I try to describe myself, I am more than the sum of what I can say.

So, I run ... for those I love and, even, for those I have never met. I run to make life matter, seeking more than the right way to go, but actually going there and watching the race mean something.