Yesterday I embarked upon a new mission. My goal?..Create a documentary to counter the stigma associated with homelessness.
I hit the streets in the first quest of someone willing to share their story. As we drove, I spotted a sea of faces. These faces bore the marks of pain and loneliness. These were my people, the ones who understand the struggle, who know what it’s like to rise up only to be knocked back down by systematic oppression.
As I stepped out I approached the crowd and explained my intentions. By some I was met with suspicion and mistrust. I understood their fear. In a world full of lies and deceit, we have been conditioned to look at our neighbor through a microscope of uncertainty. I also met those who were willing to share. They needed a voice, because for too long theirs had been silenced.
I met a lady who just needed a hug. She embraced me with an intensity and longing; a deep instinctual need to bond with another human soul. She asked would I kneel to pray. My heart was moved. We knelt down right there on the cruel, hard pavement of the bus stop shelter. The smell of alcohol filled my nostrils and love filled my heart.
I met a man who carried a crude cardboard sign. When he spoke I heard the heart of a warrior. This man knew struggle. He knew oppression, and yet he would not be broken by these things. The fires he walked through had only given him greater strength. There was no shame in his heart or fear in telling his story. He would be the first to speak truth.
We stood under the cover of the bus stop terminal and there was no need for introductions. When he spoke I was filled with great hope. His voice was not harsh, but deep and filled with a divine authority. I was reminded of a great leader during the civil rights movement. He did not point fingers at his oppressers. He did not place blame on the system that had stolen his freedom and time, leaving him stamped with a label not fitting for a man of dignity. Instead he spoke raw uncensored truth. He spoke of our responsibility as individuals to effect change. The words that poured forth came from the heart and when he finished, I had no words. My knees were weak with the weight of what I’d heard and what I’d seen with my eyes.
As we exchanged information and formalities, the heavy presence of police descended upon that tiny bus stop. Badges displayed proudly and holstered guns at their side, they entered with an heir of pride. A barrage of questions ensued and an older black man who sat alone became unwitting prey for the beast we call our justice system. He was not disorderly or a threat to anyone. I would venture to say he’d been nipping at the bottle, but I saw kindness in his eyes. I watched, my heart heavy, and powerless to help. I offered up a prayer and even now I pray for all those I came in contact with. I even pray for the officer who threatened us with a charge of trespassing and ran our information with no explanation. I pray for the officer who refused to shake my hand. I saw little kindness in their eyes, but I do believe somewhere deep down there is a spark. I believe that for all men.
It is our choice what we do with the life we are given and I pray that somewhere among my many imperfections I have shined light in someone’s life; that I have made their day a little easier to bare.
Yesterday impacted me a great deal. I spent the evening in a whirlwind of emotion…anger, sadness, elation and awe. I cried. I rejoiced. I even yelled and screamed. I learned a great deal and I will not forget those faces, because those faces have a name and they each carry a story. They each hold within them seeds of divinity. All that is needed is someone to light their way, someone to give them a voice and remind them they too have great purpose.
Written by: Tiffany Jackson
Original Artwork by: Will Percious
*Dedicated to James and my dear sister who knelt with me in prayer.