Over a year ago I got this long private message on my Facebook from a man named Ron who raved about my art. He talked about how much it inspired him, and that he would love to purchase one but he was homeless at the moment. I thought to myself, wow. what should I reply to this guy? I went into my heart for answers and wrote back. Told him to live up the adventure of being homeless, and that opportunities are there that don’t exist in any other reality. I also told him that if he came up with $50 I would send him a painting. At that time, that price was very low to my standards because I was still accustomed to selling my art at 1K or so. (It wasn’t til my first art show in Ithaca that I decided not to sell my art at a high price. More on this subject later).
Anyway, about a year passed and I long forgot about that tiny interaction with the homeless man. Then out of the blue one day I get a phone call ~ while I was at work! He had looked me up, figured out where I work and called me there. I couldn’t be on the phone long so I took his number and called him back when I got home, and his story both moved me and inspired me beyond words. I never felt so honored to be talking to someone before in my life! It was like a real hero.
I can’t tell you the story the way he told me, and I won’t even try to convey his message ~ of hope, courage, unconditional love, valor, honesty and some deep, deep commitment. This man went from career, family, nice car, nice house and everything rolling good to absolutely nothing in over a period of months. He went through a divorce that shattered him and had to move out. Then the company where he worked went under and right afterwards he lost his car and was put in jail for tickets he didn’t pay. When he got out of jail he couldn’t pay to get his car out of the impounding place, so they auctioned it off. He has 3 kids that he adores more than anything, and kept their baby stuff in that car. That was lost too.
I was on the phone hanging on every word of this story. He slept in parks. Woke up to a coyote staring straight at him from 3 feet away. He slept on roof tops and under bridges and made friends with other homeless people. Then he began to help the drunkies recover from their alcoholism and mentored others. Finally he began to work at this tire shop and would give his money straight to his kids because they needed it for school stuff. Meanwhile he stayed homeless.
At the YMCA he was so encouraging to all the people around him that they asked him to please work there. He did. He didn’t only do his job, he improved the system and everybody’s lives and made news. After a while he was so talked about that the CEO came down to meet him personally. By this time he was going to AA meetings with some alcoholics and committed to being their sponsor to help them through recovery. I asked him if he drank, and he said, no, no, I never got into that. What made you stay homeless for so long then? (Over a year). He told me: It was shock and grief. He couldn’t move. I understand that more than he knows.
He had called me to tell me that he had fifty dollars and he wanted to buy a painting. I almost cried! I am more than honored. I love to talk to someone who knows what it feels like to lose everything, and who fights with all his/her strength to come back and land on top. Nothing lights my fire more than that!
He sent me the fifty dollars but it still took me a while because I wanted to be in the spirit of that fighting energy and paint him something he deserved. A week ago I finally started on it and spent hours singing, drinking wine and painting, and thinking of this man and what he was doing for so many people. I painted what came to me with no judgment, and let come out whatever wanted to be said. The emotion was passion and love ~ the kind of love that embraces the whole world.