Photo credits go to Chris Townsend you can find him on Instagram #nyfakid
I work with all types of people. Largely an at risk population, often homeless. My clients have many stories, never is one the same. You would be surprised to find that they come from all walks of life. Young, old, once rich, always poor, veterans, struggling with addiction, or struggling with mental illness; many have been mistreated, neglected, or abused.
I learned at a very young age; to never judge someone by their outter appearance. I learned to ask, how their journey brought them to this place, this stage in life. Chris has an amazing gift, he captures someone’s life in a single photo. His photos so often scream to me, the life and journeys of my clients.
Yesterday one of my favorite clients came in. He has a unique story. He was not born in the United States. He grew up in an tropical environment. He served in the military for his country. He came the the U.S. as a young man, and got his citizenship. He has already lived through more than most of us could imagine.
What strikes me most when I meet with him, is how he sees the world and his journey. Yesterday he told me how he is once again homeless. He talked to me with such sadness in his eyes, he stated how lucky he was, he had a good spot down on the river, he says this to me with a smile on his face. “Don’t be sad for me, I have my faith”.
I asked how was he managing with the basics; water, food, bathing, he smiled and said, “don’t you worry, I am smart, I found a place down along the river, it’s nice down there I feel very safe, I can bathe there”.
He smiled with such a heaviness in his eyes, he looked at me and showed me his backpack. “Look you see, I dont hold value in material possessions, I have had everything taken from me you see, these things here… they mean nothing to me”.
I looked down at his backpack, he demonstrated just how weighted down it was. I knew he was use to living outdoors. I mentioned to him, what about the rain? He smiles at me, “Jennifer, don’t worry; God takes care of me”. I smiled back and asked how he was doing, the look of loneliness heavy on his face. He smiles again; looks directly into my eyes and proudly tells me how God used him to help a couple.
He smiles and looks up as he speaks, “I know a feel hopeless, but I never give up. God listens to me, he uses to to help the couple you see. I saw them, man and women walking late one night. I look up and say, Hey you need a place to rest? They come over, I show them here. I have plenty of space to lay my head, this here is a good place, this spot is good for you to rest. Jennifer, I tell them, no body will bother you here”.
He smiles at me. I reply, It made you feel good to help them out. He smiles and nods, “Yes, but what you don’t know. God used me, he talks to me. I helped them out. They stayed there for a few nights. One night they got to fighting you see. I got up, I got between them I said to him; this is not going to happen here”. I looked at him with concern, he smiles back. “No I dont get hurt, I took the woman aside, I tell the man I am going to talk to her. I ask this woman. Do you love this man? Jennifer, she says to me yes , she loves this man. I tell her then you cannot put your hands on this man. You must love him, help him, respect him. She agreed. I go talk to the man.. I ask him, same question. Do you love this woman? He says yes to me. So I tell this man you must love this woman, you cannot fight with her, if she puts her hands on you must must walk away”. He tells me how it filled his heart to help them out. Hope it gives him hope, others might need him.
He goes on to share that he feels so very alone. He is isolated from others, I try to talk about getting him into housing. He smiles back and replies; “No see shelters would not be good for me, I am safe and better out here”.
If you just merely looked at the surface. You would be too quick to judge. A man with nothing worldly, but everything in love.
It is because of clients like him, I love my job. No amount of sin, mental illness, or addiction of any kind wipes away the humanity, empathy, humility and compassion you will find inside.
If I ever doubt there is a higher power. I just listen to my clients, and see the gifts he leaves as reminders for us each and everyday!
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