Recently I saw this painting of a bearded man who appeared young. He had on a wool hat, and his eyes gazed out at me with a mixture of sadness, compassion and just being. He looked like he’d been through a lot for his age.
His face transcended his lot in life. How do I know this? Because I recently read the story of his portrait. He is a homeless man in Albuquerque who hangs out near the University of New Mexico. Like most street people, his days are probably filled with moments of survival strung together, one after another, being more in the now than the busy people who pass him by each day without “seeing” him.
What kind of longing is in his heart? Does he crave recognition from others? Does it matter much to him? How would I feel in his place? I could easily be there, but for the grace of God.
His sitting for the painting was about three hours—probably a long time for anyone, especially someone who is used to being suspicious of the people who pass him by. Will they see him, will they approach him, and will he get eye contact? Will they abuse him, condemn him, judge him or rip him off? The survival skills must be well honed.
The painter was someone who cares about other people, no matter their status. She had often seen him and always acknowledged his presence. She gave him dignity. He returned the dignity with his pose and the blessing of his face on canvas.
Such is the power of one person loving another without conditions. That power mysteriously was captured with paint and hangs on a wall at the Center for Action and Contemplation. It can be easy to pass the painting by without really looking at it—just like his daily experiences. But, if you take a moment to stop by and look at it, you just might see something that helps you transcend your selfishness. You might discover that God is present. Those eyes might stare into your soul, and you might feel unsettled, you might be disturbed, you might even be changed.
[Tom Gilbert is a writer, thinker and webservant for LivingTheSolution.com, a website dedicated to finding real answers to real life challenges.]