Friday, November 23, 2007

All Alone

While photographing the marina during our extended summer this year I met this gentleman walking along the lake. He is homeless and everything he owned was in a shopping bag over his shoulder. He walked over while I was taking pictures and started sharing with me all of the changes to the marina as he use to swim there as a child. We had a wonderful conversation that lasted over 30 minutes and I really enjoyed spending time with him and talking about sports, boats, birds, photography and "stuff." Although I didn't get to pray with him, we did share words of encouragement and I kept reminding him that God hasn't forgotten about him and that his present condition is temporary. Although he seemed depressed (and understandably so) his eyes lit up when the conversation became encouraging and I could see that there was still hope in his heart.

When it was time for me to leave he shook my hand and thanked me for the conversation and we both went our separate ways. What was interesting about this encounter was that he never asked me for anything nor did he share with me how he ended up homeless. He did share with me that he was in a shelter and that it was fairly safe. One of the last images of the marina that day was this man sitting by himself with his feet hanging over the cement wall. As I turned and the view changed to the height, power and money of the downtown skyscrapers I couldn't help but think to myself "there but by the grace of God goes I."

Technically this isn't a perfect photograph - it was a hurried "snapshot" as the sun was setting I was trying to capture the orange hues of the sun against his face. He didn't care for my impromptu portrait so I didn't ask if I could take another one. But, the more I look at this photo the more I like it because to me it speaks of the homeless experience in America. Just like the homeless people in streets, you can see his face and yet you can't. You can see his eyes and yet you can't really tell if they are there. You can see his blue-ish clothing and yet it it blends into the blue background of the sky and water. And in many respects it is this "I see you but I really don't see you" component of homelessness that allows this condition to continue. I didn't intend to make a political statement but in many ways this photo is the face of homelessness in my country. And, IMHO the time has come for this condition to die.


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