Sketch Artists and World Travelers

I haven’t blogged since before Christmas because I’ve been all over the place and my mind has been too. But I’m glad to be back in LA. I spent most of my Christmas break in Ohio excited to return to Hollywood which confirms for me that I’m ready to stay here for the rest of the program year. But we are halfway through January already! Where does the time go?

Last week, one of my coworkers and I did some usual outreach in West Hollywood. We stopped by to check in on a few clients who have been hanging around a privately owned business to see how they were doing. One of our clients has been with PATH for a long time.  He has a fantastic sense of humor and always asks us for socks. He dresses in suits and is clean shaven, maintaining a sense of dignity regardless of where he sleeps at night. He’s the sort of individual who can win over a room of people and that doesn’t change just because he’s homeless. He took my clipboard and my notepad to sketch a portrait of my teammate and I, even though he knew we were running late and had spent more time than planned talking to him. He sketched, both watching the paper and us; commenting on our features and telling us to sit still. Then he turned the notepad around for us to look at what he’d drawn. We were speechless and caught off guard for a moment before bursting into laughter. He had been sketching a portrait of himself the entire time. The moments like these remind me what it’s like, for a split second, for there to be no divisions between people. I have found so much of myself and the world in the people I meet on the streets; in the rawness and realness of who people are.

IMG_3101
The finished portrait, now tacked to my wall by my desk in the office

Marji, a friend from Ohio, and I went to Venice Beach last Saturday. The sidewalks are full of shops and local artists, but I stopped when I saw this sign:

IMG_20160109_140132134“Tell me your story” is practically the catchphrase for DOOR Hollywood and I was thrilled to see someone else invested in hearing the stories of those around him. We went over to talk to him and I’m so glad that we took the initiative to. Before this year, I doubt I would have.

Fast forward a week to last night.  Marji and I made plans to meet up with Pierre at a coffee shop in North Hollywood to hear more about his work and his journey. You hear in the news once in a while about people who sell everything to travel the world, and it was incredible to have the chance to not only meet, but befriend someone who is one of those individuals. I felt challenged and humbled by many of the things he said, and especially by the eloquent way he spoke. Despite English being his second language, I felt incompetent compared to the way he a had a grasp of explaining things in my own native language.

He has an incredible life story and eventually explained to us, “My life is impossible. People don’t believe it. I have to explain the timeline because it’s complicated and I want it to make sense. But when I tell my story, I have to tell all of it, because there are so many little pieces that make it what it is and they are all connected.”

I would like to share with you some of the insights that he’s gained from his life experiences and traveling. He told us at the beach that he was feeling too comfortable in his life in France, and knew that was a sign it was time for a change. So last night, as Marji and I spoke with him and explored many different topics and debates, I’ve remembered a few that stood out to me the most:

On education: “People are slaves to ignorance. They build the walls and they live in the walls they build for themselves. It’s a prison, and a trap. And honestly, the thing is, they are both the guard and the prisoner of the jail.” 
On religion: “I’m not a very….what’s the word in English? I know it in French…Religious. That’s it. I’m not a very religious person. I believe that people create names and ideas for things. If I tell you this cup is red, you will tell me I’m wrong because you have been taught that it is the color white. I believe that about religion. I believe in God though. I see God everyday in the work that I do. But I believe that the words we give something don’t matter because things can be different to different people.”
On compassion and reality: “I love people. I don’t just like people, I love them. But I keep a division there. I hear their stories and I do what I am able to do to help them. But I am careful to keep a division because if I felt everything too deeply in here (his heart) then it would compromise my ability to do my work and to continue on. I have to tell myself that I cannot change the world. But I also have to tell myself that I can. Because I can’t save people, or change their lives for them, but I can tell their stories and let them know that they are important and have a voice worth hearing.” 
I encourage you to check out his website; We Are Superheroes.  Watch his video explaining some of the work he’s doing and his plans as he continues.  And of course, read some of the stories of the people he’s met.
Be inspired by humanity, whether it’s in a portrait sketch, in stories from across the world, shared visions and ideals over coffee, or even if it’s in yourself! 
We have such a beautiful and diverse world. Let 2016 be a year where you let yourself bless and be blessed by the gift that we are to each other!
Much love, and happy new year!

 

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