Robert is a man I met on Los Angeles Street. I thought we crossed paths so I could shoot a photo of him I had no idea that this was going to be a monumental moment in my life that I would never forget.
After I shot the photo we started talking. Robert told me all these amazing stories about where he had been and the jobs he had worked. I started wondering how someone so intelligent could end up living in skid row. I never asked why or how. I just let him talk and I listened. He went on to tell me that one of his vertebrae was replaced and he was recovering from knee surgery. Walking was what he did for physical therapy. There was also something wrong with his feet and ankles, he told me it got so bad that he almost died. At that point he tried to go see a doctor but with no car he had to walk. After walking for miles in excruciating pain, he reached a point where he could not go on. He laid down in the street and started praying. He told God he could not go on and to just take him then. A Police officer drove by and told him he could not lay in the street and never asked if there was a problem. Robert related the fact he couldn’t move and there was something wrong with him. The Officer informed him there was a clinic a few blocks down and directed him to go there. Again Robert prayed. An inner strength was summoned in his battered body and willed him to get up. He did not look at the awful situation as a negative; but as a sign that God walked with him and he was not alone in his moments of adversity. I don’t know where the strength to stand up and endure came from; but he made it. When he finally got to the clinic it was not yet open. He ended up waiting for another two hours to see a Doctor, but such is life. As I listened to this gentleman tell his story, I started to ponder my own life. There was a time when I reached that same exact point. After attending 9 funerals in 5 years and losing the most important people in my life; I went into the total collapse of an alcohol fueled drug binge. The holes inside of me were so big that I was doing anything I could to numb the pain, even if it meant filling the voids with darkness. When I found myself lying in the street, I too told God that I could not take anymore and prayed for a final silence. I made it through that night and I have been sober for almost for years. I know a lot of people reach this point, but to meet a complete stranger and connect on this level was deeply profound. We ended our emotional journey with Robert grasping my hands and telling me he wanted to say a prayer.
So here I am, standing on a sidewalk in skid row, holding hands with a man I had never met; praying.
That is the moment that I will never forget. God works in mysterious ways.