Blog post by Rose M, a Kindness Investor from Forest Park, IL.
I just spent the better part of an hour being treated to a stream of consciousness as only a nonmedicated schizophrenic can dish it out.
Today is my last day in my first week as a Kindness Investor (yes, I’m hooked. I’ll be back again in May). I had originally intended to try my husband’s idea and go down to the McDonald’s in the nearby Wal-Mart to find a recipient.
But first I had to make a deposit in the bank two blocks from my house. Actually, it’s across the street from the McDonalds where I met Michael B. (Day 68). When I left the bank I saw this gentleman sitting on a park bench. I needed to run home and get my ten. I decided if he was still there when I got back, he would be my recipient.
Well, he was gone. I played a hunch he hadn’t been waiting for the bus, so I decided to walk east on Madison towards a little public square where sometimes the homeless tend to congregate. Sure enough, he was sitting there.
“Are you the man I just saw sitting up the block about a half hour ago? Across from the bank?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“Oh good. Can I talk to you for a minute?”
I plopped down, careful to keep his bag of newspaper scraps and black canvas backpack tied together with several belts between us. I asked him point-blank if it would be ok to give him a ten-dollar bill.
It was the perfect opening. I started to explain about Reed and the Year of Giving blog. However, after about three seconds he interrupted me.
“I do mostly art. It’s my gift. It gives me peace.” He had taken out a scrap of paper. It looked like the back of a checkbook, with the calendar year printed on one side. He folded it in half and taking a pen from his backpack, started to draw on it.
“All the power is from God. Life is an adventure. Basically I get my peace from the artwork. God gave me this gift to give me peace. I’m a multimedia artist. Do you know Julie Bell? Frisette? Bell does science fiction. They’re good. They’re some of my favorites.”
I didn’t interrupt. Probably what I had to say wasn’t going to make much sense to him anyway. Instead, I paid attention to what he was drawing. I saw a few sweeps of what looked like long hair, so I thought perhaps he was drawing me as a way to impress me.
Finally he held it up. “Judas Iscariot,” he pronounced. Well, I’ve been called worse.
“Is that who you were…”
“No, John the Baptist,” he corrected himself. “See?” He pointed out the fierce gaze in the eyes on the paper, which contrasted oddly with the artist’s own deep brown eyes. His weathered face appeared to be about sixty as his hand went back to drawing, and his mouth back to talking. “John the Baptist. Always telling the truth. That’s what he did. So tell me your story? What were you saying?”
I got another three seconds into the saga of YOG when he broke in again. He’d added a helmet with a flag and horn, and a pointy beard. “Kubla Khan. Fu Man Chu. Or maybe a Knight. I draw like this. It’s called layering. You know about layering?”
This was basically the rhythm of our conversation. He would free associate off of some word I’d just said, eventually coming back to asking me to finish my story. Finally I started asking him questions. I figured he was a vet. He told me he was in special forces and was in Desert Storm. Before he got out of the military he was doing peacekeeping work in Afghanistan. I’m telling you the short version. There was a lot of meandering around the inner terrain, if you get my drift, but I suspected those two bits of information had some validity.
He’s from Chicago, although he claims to have lived all over the country, gone to countless high-end schools, graduated from top art institutes. He not only draws. He writes, takes pictures and is a percussionist. He has a very high IQ. How high? Nobody would tell him. But he went to Montessori, he told me, as if that were proof in itself. He stuttered and stumbled over his words, and sometimes sounded to me like a child at play, boasting in imagined exploits.
I started to feel a little motherly towards him. Who knew where he was? Who was reaching out to him? He has children he claims he sees now and again.
“How do they find you?”
“Oh, they just do.” A lot of his answers were like that. Vague and mysterious.
“Do you ever go over to Hines?” Hines VA Hospital is just a few miles from my house.
“I’ve been over there. I’ll go back sometime,” he said nonchalantly. But I doubt it. I don’t think he’d take well to anyone offering solutions so unmanageable to a man in his condition as a roof over his head, medications he’d have to take daily, a pension that would make him a target for robbery. He looked very fit to me, and handsome in a rugged sort of way. He probably manages street life as well as can be expected.
“So what are you going to do with the ten I gave you?”
“I’m going to buy art supplies. Paper and crayons.” He pulled some crayons from his backpack. “See these here? They’re cheap, but I’m going to use them to add texture to this picture.” He started applying shades of gold and green.
“He has a very warm aura, doesn’t he,” I commented. I was beginning to think he was drawing a self-portrait, because he seemed to me warm and likeable, despite his mental illness.
“Yes! You can see it, can’t you? What do you think that is there,” he said, pointing to the throat.
“He’s rising from the water. He was probably an Aquarius. I like white water rafting.”
We shared an unexpected moment of silence. Then…
“Life’s an adventure. I like parasailing too. Hang-gliding. Gliding in planes. The planes, gliders you know, have no engines. They glide over the mountains and it’s quiet and I sang to my girlfriend up there.”
I took his picture holding the drawing, because he didn’t want people to see his broken teeth and uneven beard. He handed me the drawing as a gift with a message written on the back. It reads:
My bibliogenetic is God’s Tool engraven image Artisian, Well of Faith and Brush of Great Gift to myself, to others. Visual Applause.
I walked home thinking of him singing to his girlfriend in the wild quiet above the world. I wondered what he sang to her. I hope she remembers him. I know I will.