Street Dwellers

It’s been a while since I’ve consistently walked to my appointments downtown, mostly because of insane heat (wisdom has a way of getting through every now and then). However, today I ignored wisdom, and felt it was time to brave the heat and embrace the sweat. So I walked to the meetings I had today, and, as usual, whenever I slow down and stop the hurry of life, I encounter people and see them through new lenses.

I was walking south on Central just south of McDowell when I encountered a band of street dwellers. They were full of energy and very outgoing.

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As I smiled and nodded a culturally acceptable “hello” to them, the gal in the pony tail (in the back of the picture) said to me, “Hey, what are you carrying that camera around for?”

I told them, “I have a blog and I like to tell stories of people in Phoenix. You guys want a group photo?”

Surprisingly, they all agreed and assembled very quickly for a family photo, and as they did, they said, “You can’t get our beers in the picture though.” They were all sharing two 40’s (that’s slang for 40 ounces of beer) wrapped in a sock, to keep them cool of course.

I said, “That’s alright… just get in there for a group picture. You’re going to be famous.”

Then the tall guy in the Nike shirt, his name is Dallas, said to me, “I’m already famous.” Then he  said, “I’m famous with the man upstairs. He’s the only reason I can wake up every morning and keep living.”

“Alright bro,” I said, and I gave him a high-five and told him to keep looking to Him.

Right at that moment, the light rail horn sounded off, it was coming, and they were in a hurry to leave. Then I said, “You guys look like a great family. Where you guys from?”

Then the same gal who asked why I was carrying around the camera said to me, “We’re homeless. Make sure people know that not all homeless people are bad.” She said it again as she was walking away quickly to catch the light rail. I said, “Will do!” (while I gave her a thumbs up).

Not sure what their lives look like day to day (I have my ideas), but today, the glimpse I got was one of correction that led to compassion.

Correction: Don’t have a single story of street dwellers. The term “homeless” is a bad term. They have a home, it just so happens to be bigger and less convenient than most of ours, and people ought never to be defined as homeless. Home is not always a physical structure.

Compassion: I am praying for street dwellers in a new way today as they navigate the street life, and I wanted to write this blog to allow some of to look at a snapshot of people who live radically different from us and suffer in ways that most of us never do, granted, some of their suffering is self-induced, but not all. We can say that when we stop having single stories of people. Not all street dwellers are bad.

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Anything Helps

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First thing he told me when I asked him if I can take his photo was, “I’m you’re guy.” He went on to confess to me that he’s a heroin addict and showed me his arms with scars from the needles. He also said that he used to be a carpenter, but can’t find work anymore. I told him that I am on a journey to capture images of people; rich, poor, young, old, and colorful. I told him that his life has meaning; that he has something to share with people; and that he is not defined by a single snapshot of his life. He loved that I wanted a picture of him with his cardboard sign even though it had some of his blood on it with his greasy holding it. His words were actually, “That’s the sh*t man!”

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He left me with a smile and said that he’ll never forget this day. His sign was truthful: Anything did help. Looks like he needed a friend today more than anything else, and to be reminded that his life isn’t a ‘single’ story called homeless man.