In the past two years I have noticed, not only in my city, but it other cities that I have had the chance to travel to that there are more and more people standing on corners with signs asking for money. I see signs that tell stories of hard times, hunger, lost jobs and need. I am generally prone to believe that the persons holding the signs are telling the truth on their placards, but I know that there are those who run scams like these on a regular basis. In an area of my city that I drive through multiple times a day, I witness frequently a network of two men, and occasionally a woman who take turns begging for money, and watching for the police, and today as I approached the intersection- I expected to see them again.
From a distance I saw a dreadlocked man with a bright green sign, much larger than the cardboard signs that the regulars hold close to their bodies so that they can be easily hidden from the police. This young man held his sign high above his head as he walked back and forth and looking into the cars of the people driving by. As the light changed and traffic flowed closer, I saw the words on the young man’s sign in big bold letters….JESUS LOVES YOU. He looked into my car as I drove by and gave me a beautiful smile that lit up his eyes and a thumbs up sign. I returned the sign and the smile, and drove past him. My destination would have to wait, I had to know who this young man was, and what drove him to pick that corner to do what he was doing.
I pulled into the parking lot of a bank, and quickly exited my car to get to him. I told him that I was a photographer, and would love to take his picture, but more than that I would love to hear his story. I extended my hand and asked his name- Jeremy. Jeremy told me that he was 21 years old and until 6 months ago no one had ever told him about Jesus at all. He told me that one night in college he dreamed that he was dying in an elevator that was going down, and as he was dying in the elevator he saw the words under the elevator buttons that read Jesus is the way up. He told me that he awoke with a real sense that God was real, and he wanted to know who He was. He spent some time traveling the country as a hitch hiker, and spent some time in Mexico on a fantastic adventure looking for God. He received a ride from a trucker who listened to the story of his dream and told him that he could communicate with God through Jesus, and explained to him who Jesus was.
I asked him about choosing that corner to display his sign, and he told me that he wasn’t sure where he was going to go, but he knew that he wanted to share his sign. I thanked him for talking to me and agreeing to be photographed. He embraced me, and gave me a warm smile and a genuine “God Bless You Sister”. I waved and took up a position across the street to take his picture.
As I stood on a corner opposite Jeremy, the traffic flowing between us, I watched him and his brilliant smile as he lifted his sign above his head. He caught the drivers passing by and pointed to his sign declaring his message. Motorists were honking their agreement, and waving their hands out of their windows. While I was watching I saw a young man with his clothes in two black trash bags walk up to Jeremy and say a few words. Jeremy placed his hand on the young mans shoulder and they both bowed their heads in prayer. I felt honored to be able to capture it, and very proud of the boldness that this young man displayed.
I realize that it is unusual for a photographer and business person to openly discuss religion, and it is sometimes frowned upon. I have never apologized for being a Christian and I have never bashed anyone else for what they believe. I share my faith as I’m lead to, and I thank you for allowing me to.