It was last year when God told me to start “The Faces Of:.” I had been praying for God to show me a way that I could do more with my photography. God has blessed me with the funds to have a professional grade camera and the smarts to know how to use it well, so I wanted to use those talents for Him.
I was in Cincinnati when God spoke to me. I was stopped at a red light and to my right was a homeless man. He was holding a sign that read “Homeless vet. Anything helps. God bless.” I did my best to read the sign as quickly as I could, making sure to avoid eye contact. Thoughts raced through my mind.
“What if he’s just panhandling? How do I know if I give him money, he won’t use it for drugs or alcohol? Is he really a veteran or is he just saying that? Somebody else will help him.”
Be easy on me; I’m sure you’ve had some of the same thoughts. As I pulled away from the traffic light, God checked me. What if that man was a veteran that fought for my freedom? I just passed him by. Maybe all he needed was a couple of dollars to have a hot meal that night.
It was only a couple of months later that I was back in Cincinnati. I was walking through Over the Rhine to get my car when a man stopped me (for the sake of this story, we will call him John). He looked to be in his twenties and had a black trash bag slung over his shoulder. John asked me if I would just talk to him. As we stood there talking, he told me he had just been released from the Justice Center and had been trying for two hours to get someone to just talk to him – no one would. They all just passed him by. I understand that some may have truly been busy and not had the time, but two hours worth of people? I spent about 10 minutes talking to this guy I’d just met. He told me that he was in jail for a probation violation and he just needed to get home. John’s mom was sick and he wasn’t even sure if she was being cared for since he had been in custody. I could see the worry in his eyes. He explained where he lived to me and asked if I would be able to give him a couple of dollars so he could afford the bus fare to get back to his mom. I could tell this guy was genuine. As I pulled out wallet to see what cash I had, a man across the street began yelling “Don’t help him! Tell him to go to a shelter!” Hearing this made me mad and then I looked over to see the tears in John’s eyes. The man across the street had no idea what we had talked about or what was going on. He had only seen me pull out my wallet for a man that looked a little rough. This man had already decided in his mind that John was an awful man that was just bumming money.
I didn’t have any cash is my wallet but I saw an ATM down the street. I invited John to walk with me and I asked him more about his story. He told me about how he was six months clean from heroin. I heard about how he had been caring for his mom since she had become ill. I truly felt that John was a man with a good heart but a hard past. I withdrew some money from the ATM and handed it to John. When he looked into his hand and saw the $20 dollars, he tried to return it to me. When I told him to take it, he thanked me. I told John that is was nothing I did, but that is was God. I don’t think I have ever been given a weirder look in my life. As I began walking to my car, the opposite direction John was going, I told him that I would be praying for him and his mom. As I saw the tears build in his eyes, I knew that this was a God moment.
I didn’t share that story to brag or give myself props, but to show that we never truly know someone’s full story. I could have easily told John that I was in a hurry and apologized, saying I didn’t have time to talk. I could have looked at him, covered in tattoos with his black trash bag and kept on walking. That would have been easy, but I would have missed out on one of God’s blessings for me.
Things like this happen every day. Homeless people are looked down on. Those with a mental illness are considered weak. People think foster kids are awful kids. I’m tired of it. I want to give people their voice back. That’s why I started this project. The Faces Of: The Photo Book Series puts a person’s story and portrait together to try and eliminate social stigmas on groups of people. To learn more about this project, please visit the website www.thefacesofseries.weebly.com or find The Faces Of on Facebook.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE: Watch the video below to see mine and Zach’s conversation as we were walking to get my picture for this blog post.