SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 15: 200 Strangers, A Blues Man and A Survivor: Part Two

“I’m Banished From the Wundr Studio at Helms”

Crew boot behind me (Read 365 Day 15 / 200 Strangers, A Blues Man and A Survivor: Part One), I wander the Helms Bakery complex.

Straight ahead are tons of people enjoying drinks at the local drink stop. I walk towards the crowd. An eclectic bunch, everything from dad’s holding babies to suited business people and the hip crowd. As I approach, my gut tells me not to shoot there. I’m learning to listen to that feeling.

I veer left, walk for a block or so, still nothing grabs me, and fearing the wrath of my crew if I return to the studio with nothing, I’m driven forward. Couples holding hands (it’s Friday date night), skateboarders, a large woman walking her tiny dog, still nothing pulls me in.

It’s getting dark, I know my crew is wanting me to return so that we can all go home. A touch of desperation settles in.

I look to the sky to slow my thoughts and clear my mind, hoping the pause will change my perspective.

And boy does it. I spot a silent man sitting on a bench, paper bag beside him and fruit popsicle in hand. People walk to the left and to the right of him, sadly ignoring his very presence. He is world weathered, but not dirty. There is something about him that is grounded and strangely spiritual – I’m drawn in.

It take’s me about a second to connect with him and he smiles with great laughter at the prospect of being part of 365. I sit on the ground in front of him and begin the interview. His story is heart heavy, peaceful an resolved.

This man fascinates me.

Mark is his name, he starts of with expressing that although he has had a hard life, he is thankful for living. You see, mark is a recovering drug and alcohol abuser. He tells me he has waisted most of his life, but is content with who he is now.

I ask him what he has done. he flinches slightly. I worry for a second that I have touched a sensitive nerve with my question. With a slight tear in the corner of his eye, he gives me the list.

I have not done terrible things, just stupid things. Not going into great detail, he outlines his history: construction, scab labor, 15 years in the gutter, 10 years in jails/prisons, all capped off by 4 years in a mental institution. That alone would kill most men, or at least push them to fully retreat from society. But Mark has chosen quite the opposite. To fight back to sanity and balance.

I am impressed with his courage to change. He enlightens me to the importance of community support groups and makes no attempt to hide his gratitude for the blessings of one humble Rabbi and the local Jewish Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Center. “They saved my life.” he says.

He offers me a popsicle, just having a pastry, I decline. He smiles and says, “how about a funny face.” There is no way I can pass on this photo opportunity. Mark delivers with flying colors.

It’s impossible for me to truly comprehend the full levels that this changed man has fallen to, but one thing is for certain, his heart is now pure and his mind is intact.

The sun is setting, Mark leans towards me and state’s, “it Shabbat, time for me to go to Synagogue with my girlfriend.” Repenting for past mistakes, he has devoted his life to peace and to making his girl comfortable. He tells me, “she has terminal Cancer, I’m by her side.”

I ask Mark if he would like to share anything with the world. Yes he says, “Be Good and Do Good.”

There is no way we can ignore this statement from a man like Mark.

Mark… Shabbat Shalom!