Sketches, social commentary

Unexpected gifts from my homeless friends

perceptions towards homelessness

 

I’ve been sitting on this sketch for a few weeks now, waiting for the right time to share it with you. Paul, one of the two authors at Two Voices One Transmission asked me to create a sketch based on descriptions of several characters in this blog post. His interactions with his “favorite neighbors,” who were either homeless, or on the discarded fringes of society, resonated with me. I don’t know how well I responded to the challenge, but I certainly enjoyed creating these sketches. This also provided an opportunity to reflect on my evolving perspective towards homeless friends.

Last week I wrote about life lessons I learned while hiking the Appalachian Trail. (If you’d like to read it, you can visit here.) I spoke at length about the hardships (and perks) of living as a homeless hiker. But the thing is, I wasn’t really “homeless.” If things became too difficult, I knew my patient wife would be waiting with open arms. There were only a handful of nights (out of 166) that I struggled to find a place to sleep at night. I lost an unhealthy amount of weight, but access to food was rarely the issue. And while the typical long-distance hiker looks (and smells) like a feral creature, there was no shortage of “hiker-friendly” towns and homes that welcomed us, some even celebrated the fact that we were walking the woods for a really long time.

My homeless friends don’t have the luxury of a support system. No friends and family back home to send encouragement or care packages. They don’t have credit cards in their pack that they can pull out when the urge to dip into town for a hot meal and a shower becomes overwhelming. Rather than being celebrated for enduring a challenging existence, the homeless often face ostracism and attacks. A life like this doesn’t strike me as fun, or inspirational. And it certainly isn’t glorious.

But this isn’t always a recipe for despair.

In Bucharest, the income disparity between the homeless and middle class is much lower than in other developed countries. The “uniform” of the homeless man asking for donations is difficult to distinguish from the vender selling trinkets in a nearby stall. And women such as my homeless friend Gheorghita are treated with respect and deference.

 

The saint of the streets

happy and homeless in RomaniaI first met Gheorghita several years ago as she stood vigil on a busy street corner near the entrance to my favorite market, which also happens to face the domes of an ornate Orthodox church. She is a diligent representative of Romanian preventative medicine, ready to shower blessings for health, prosperity and love upon you and your family in exchange for a one Lei donation (about $0.25).

I really want to call her a friend, but she’s not on Facebook, so I don’t know the rules here. Our conversations are also more limited than I’d like, not because she isn’t friendly, but because I still don’t have a firm grasp on the Romanian language. She says she is 74, but doesn’t look a day over 70. Despite exceeding what we would consider ripe retirement age, I rarely miss seeing her at her post. Summer, winter, suffocating heat or frigid snow, she stands ready to greet anyone who passes. It’s a level of discipline that is driven partly by the need to survive, but also because, as she shares with me, this is her mission in life. And she’s good at it.

 

Finding joy in the park

A hiker friend who prefers to be called Jem when she’s not a minister for the homeless in Boston, helped me to see the moments of joy that bubble to the surface when those otherwise shunned can come together briefly and share in an outdoor craft project. Imagine a half-dozen people taking a break from their rounds through the streets of Boston to sit together in a park and paint or patch the holes in one another’s clothes. Laughing at the goofy people racing by them “all wired up” with cell phones, earphones, spilling coffee on their briefcases in the race to beat everyone to the intersection. Once there, the crowd waits in anxious anticipation for a light to give them permission to cross the street. Personally, I’d rather be the one painting in the park.

 

Brutally beautiful

brutally beautiful homelessThis last sketch is inspired by a man who claimed a corner outside the entrance to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio several years ago. He didn’t hold out a sign or a bucket for passing drivers to drop a donation in. His weathered face and unflinching confidence stopped me in my tracks. Vogue or GQ or the fashion magazine de juer won’t put him on the cover. His windblown hair and everywhere creases caused by a hard life lived under the sun tells a story that I wish I’d had courage to ask to hear. To me, he is beautiful.

I recognize that these snapshots do not paint a complete picture. Mental illness, addiction, and crime are prevalent in homeless communities. Government funded support systems are inadequate in many cases and often abused. Years of struggling with broken hearts and homes and minds often leads to horrible decisions with far-reaching consequences.

I suppose that’s what makes these unexpected gifts so valuable. Dedication to a higher calling. Finding joy in connecting with others. Boldly facing the world on their own terms despite an unfathomable series of challenges and suffering. These people have my gratitude, and respect.

Homelessness isn't always a recipe for despair. Here are a few inspiring examples

 

 

158 Comments

  • Reply ralietravels July 12, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Great sketches. Great post.
    I recall the late ’70s when it was determined that we had to “deinstitutionalize” the mentally ill. Unfortunately, no one gave thought to what would become of them when ‘set them free,” i.e., put them on the street. I don’t know where the answer lies.

    • Reply Gabriel July 12, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      Yes this is an unfortunate dilemma. Severe mental illness, like most chronic diseases, are so costly to treat. And many of the patient’s I’ve met that have already been subjected to months/years of hospitalization without significant relief are resistant to any further intervention. I don’t have good answers here either.

  • Reply lisanne3015 July 12, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    Yes, “the years of struggling with broken hearts…”yes, you understand because you’ve come to know their stories. I work with the homeless. I’m known to say “Their story becomes mine.”

    These words are beautiful. The sketch as well.

    • Reply Gabriel July 12, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      Yes I can see the compassion and patience borne of caring for homeless in your writing. It’s “our” story now.

  • Reply Dippy-Dotty Girl July 12, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    What beautiful sketches! You are talented. An artist and a way with words, why am I not surprised? 🙂

    • Reply Gabriel July 12, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      hehehe I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s a lot of fun to play.

      • Reply Dippy-Dotty Girl July 12, 2017 at 8:01 pm

        The one of the weather-beaten man is precious. So many stories tucked into his many wrinkles and frowns.

        • Reply Gabriel July 12, 2017 at 8:05 pm

          So true. I knew this was a “decent sketch” when Monica told me she could still see his intense eyes staring back at her long after she looked away from the image.

          • Dippy-Dotty Girl July 12, 2017 at 9:26 pm

            I have a small fisherman magnet from Hamburg, who sits on the refrigerator in a yellow oilskin, a fish in one hand, a thick coil of rope slung around his other arm and a pipe in his mouth. The man with the intense eyes remind me of him.

  • Reply Jodi July 12, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    Wow!!! Gabe – – you express your heart in your art! absolutely beautiful!

    • Reply Gabriel July 12, 2017 at 7:59 pm

      Thanks Jodi- I love your watercolors (and the adorable poems).

  • Reply desertcurmudgeon July 12, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Gabe. Not only did you respond to the challenge well, but you turned it into something more beautiful than I could have imagined. Gheorghita is exactly the type of person this world is sorely in need of many, many more of. This was inspiring, touching and informative…yet, somehow, none of those words do it justice. Just wonderful.

    • Reply Gabriel July 12, 2017 at 8:02 pm

      hehehe you’re too kind Paul. But thanks so much for the inspiration! I love creating these sketches. This may become a thing… Blogger Tribute thursday?

      But that would mean I’ll have to post at least once a week 😉

  • Reply josypheen July 12, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    I love that last sketch sooo much! You have such talent, and you are right, he is beautiful!

    • Reply Gabriel July 12, 2017 at 8:03 pm

      Thanks so much Josy! And I couldn’t agree more. I think I know what I want to look like when I grow up now.

  • Reply thebackyardpoet July 12, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Gabe, such wonderful words to accompany your amazing sketches. There is a glint of hope in the eyes of the man in the last sketch showing that some people can never be defeated. Great job.

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:16 am

      yes I think thats a big part of the appeal for this sketch for me as well. Not quite sure how I pulled it off, but it’s not too bad for an aspiring artist.

  • Reply rugby843 July 12, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    Another great post. I agree the interesting faces always intrigue me to hear their experiences, story.

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:17 am

      Thanks so much and I agree. An interesting face is even more alluring than a good blog title 😉

  • Reply JT Twissel July 12, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Great sketches – would you mind if I reblogged?

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:18 am

      Oh Jan I love this!

      Reblog, Retweet, Repin. Any kind of sharing that you think your audience would enjoy, I would be honored to support.

      Thank you so much!

  • Reply A Gypsy's Tale by Brooke Breazeale July 12, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    Gabe, wow. This might be my favorite yet, which is a very bold thing to say, since I usually love the last one a tiny bit more than the one before and the one before that! But this, the kindness, the compassion, the humility you demonstrate… it’s.. i don’t even know what to say. What beautiful souls you have had the pleasure to find…as we all are. And quite frankly, the only difference between them and I (or me? Always mess that one up) is the fact that I have some of the most amazing, patient, generous friends on the planet. These people you have embraced at the level you could have seen things I can’t even wrap my head around, and felt pain I can’t fathom… and you know I know pain well. That sketch is hauntingly beautiful. It makes me want to hear his story.. and to just give him a big, long hug, and your words make me wish I was there to watch you capture it all..

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:20 am

      yikes the pressure is on. Gotta keep trying to improve with each post. (Fortunately, I’ve got a long way to go 😉 )

      And you’re so right. I’ve been very fortunate to have met some amazing people.

  • Reply Didi July 12, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    A very beautifull post Gabe.

    I often question myself if people that have gone through some severe “bad” things in their life , like a bad depression or a great loss, realize very wel that life can easily turn around and put you in a bad spot and not everyone is lucky enought to go back to the good again. Maybe thats why these people realize that people who’s life did turn to the “wrong” side have their own story thats worth to be heard.

    It says a lot about you that you are open to the stories of people that are neglected often and have the prejudice of so many.
    You’re a very good person!

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Didi! You are too kind.

      And I know what you mean. So many of us have suffered though horrible events, or made horrible decisions. The consequences of those decisions could have sent us spiraling down a path of no return. However, for whatever reason, we have been fortunate enough to have the support (or serendipity) and forgiveness necessary to get back on track (or be guided back on track).

      Love this, and will be thinking more about this over the next few days. (Maybe even write a blog post about it?)

      Thank you Didi!

      • Reply Didi July 13, 2017 at 9:50 am

        I’d be honered if something I wrote would inspire you even a tiny bit for a new blog.

        I think i will take a glass a Chardonnay later and celebrate my turn to the good and the fact i found the courage to continue that.

        And let we all always try to be open minded about other’s stories, as it easily could have been us too.

        • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:54 am

          very true Didi! And enjoy that Chardonnay!

  • Reply Writing to Freedom July 12, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Beautiful sketches Gabe, along with a compassionate peek into the world of homeless and marginal people in our world. I don’t know what to do for them, but maybe you’ve offered a good start; to simply meet, talk and treat them with kindness.

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:27 am

      I don’t have good “solutions” either, but I recently read (On Val’s blog) a 3 word refrain that I think sums up my change in attitude fairly well.

      “Just like me”

      Keeping this truth in mind as I meet new people will help me to forge meaningful and genuine relationships.

  • Reply Bel July 12, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    Have you ever heard the song Let go by Frou Frou – there’s a line there that reminds me of what you just wrote ….”so let go, just get in…it’s so amazing here. It’s all right …cause there’s beauty in the breakdown..” Whatever the catalyst was to make people do what they have to do – to defy the norm – living in the streets and surviving is so tough but at the same time liberating. There’s a certain kind of freedom in just completely breaking free. Thanks for sharing such an insightful post…

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:30 am

      I’m listening to it now as I respond. Love this song! Thanks Bel

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:41 am

      hehehehe just finished listening for the 5th time. Friggin love THIS SONG!

      • Reply Bel July 13, 2017 at 9:43 am

        Lol! Are you serious? I’m glad! that’s my go to song when I’m uncertain about a lot of things and life is falling apart. It’s just so beautiful…?

        • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:53 am

          It really is Bel. Can’t believe I have never heard it before. But I’m sure making up for lost time now 😉

  • Reply ForgivingConnects July 12, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    This is a magnificent post Thank you for sharing it. Very interesting how homelessness is in Bucharest. Very different than the US. The paintings you do are full of grace. Blessings, Gabriel!

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:33 am

      My suspicion is that as the income disparity between economic “classes” shrinks, the judgements and prejudices also diminish. After all, when the external difference between “us” and “them” is not apparent, it’s more difficult discriminate.

      And really glad you enjoyed the sketches!

  • Reply Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC July 12, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    Oh Gabe, this post brought tears of compassion to my eyes. Beautifully written, haunting “sketches” (tho’ that term you use hardly does them justice), and compelling subject matter.

    Tonight I will go peacefully to sleep, focused on the extreme gratitude in my heart that I have a roof over my head, access to clean water in my very own kitchen where there is healthy food for me to fix and eat, fans and A/C to moderate the beastly heat outside my windows, etc. etc. etc. Thank you.

    I’m sure any of those dear souls on the street would love to have our problems!
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:38 am

      Thank you so much Madelyn! I’ve been tinkering with this post for quite a few weeks (from the comfort of my blogging chair and the comforts of A/C ofc).

      Gratitude is absolutely my word of the day too. Both for the comforts I’ve come to enjoy, and for these unexpected gifts from extraordinary people.

      • Reply Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC July 13, 2017 at 10:30 am

        No matter how little so many of us sometimes feel we have, we have SO much more than most people in the world.

        About the water — I was notified about a lead issue by the Water Board, who shut off the water for a few days to replace the pipes.

        I currently must filter every drop of water used for cooking, drinking, teeth cleaning, etc. I could choose to focus the fact that, as a renter I can only use that solution, or on the hassle, because it is that – but such a small one in the scheme of things.

        Every time I refill the relatively small pitcher with the lead filter (often!) – or refill my storage jugs — I try to remember to think about the women and children who must carry water on their heads from miles away each day – and remain grateful that I merely have to fill a pitcher and wait a bit — and that the problem CAN be handled by a filter, and that I was notified the day they found the problem – etc. etc. etc.

        We have so many blessings when we take the time to look from that viewpoint. Perspective is ALL – and the habit of gratitude is so worth developing.
        xx,
        mgh

        • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 10:57 am

          hehehe I could recommend some great water filters. We’ve been using water filters to catch the sloughed metal from ancient plumbing for years. (Really looking forward to moving into our NEW place soon).

          And as always- you model a perspective of gratitude and openness. Love that about you Madelyn!

  • Reply Caroline A. Ocheng July 13, 2017 at 4:25 am

    The words are amazing and so are the sketches. I like the part where you recognize that the snapshots do not paint a complete picture- because we certainly don’t know the full story or stories of these wonderful people. I like also that you call them friends, we could all use friends. My dad worked for a prison and one night he came home troubled and said to us (my siblings and i)” that we all need compassion-prisoners or free”. I also like your writing, i just followed your blog.

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:40 am

      yes I’m sure your dad had a unique perspective on another subset of our communities that does not led the “good life.”

      Thanks so much for following along! I’ll do my best to make it worth the virtual trip!

  • Reply Green Global Trek July 13, 2017 at 5:00 am

    This is a terrific post Gabe. Heartwarming and compassionate and I love the sketches. Homelessness is so prevalent in big cities today and it is such a clear societal challenge in so many levels. There are more homeless people in big American cities than in some of the poorest developing countries where at least people have a roof over their heads. It is a shocking thing to realize but for example in Washington D.C or San Francisco you will see way more homeless people than you will in Nicaragua ( where we used to live ) which is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere ( after Haiti). Really makes one wonder…

    Peta

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 10:19 am

      yes D.C. brings back quite a few memories. Kuala Lumpur was another city where the chasm between those who have enough to survive and those have so much they don’t even know how much they have.

      I suspect we share similar appreciation for those villages (or countries) where life is simpler, and resources are more evenly distributed.

      I’ve really enjoyed tagging along on as you share experiences in Sri Lanka.

      Negotiations are underway in our house for the next destinations, and Sri Lanka is getting a lot of support from the underdog (me).

  • Reply George July 13, 2017 at 6:24 am

    Beautifully sketched, in words as as pictures. Poignant and thoughtful.

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:43 am

      Thanks George!

  • Reply Maggie Wilson July 13, 2017 at 6:54 am

    The image may not make it to the cover “Vogue or GQ or the fashion magazine de juer” – that’s true. I cannot decide if I think these faces should or should not gain a wider audience.

    Of course, part of me thinks, “Absolutely!” These are wonderful images, and important stories that deserve to be shared. What better vehicle than a glossy high-end magazine?

    But then… I’d hate to see a “style” rag benefit from a homeless person’s situation. The cynic in me sees the cynic in the publisher.

    There aren’t any answers. I wish that weren’t the case. I wish your friends well.

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 9:58 am

      This is a good question. I can only speak for Gheorghita on this one (because I asked for her permission before sharing her photo on the blog).

      I’m paraphrasing but something like “My picture is part of your blessing for success Gabriel. But I won’t smile. And I don’t want attention from the authorities.”

  • Reply Arionis July 13, 2017 at 7:04 am

    Great post and as always, awesome sketches. This one gets me right in the feels.

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 10:00 am

      hehehe just rub some dirt on it Ari and get back in the game my friend 😉

  • Reply usathroughoureyes July 13, 2017 at 7:05 am

    Awesome post Gabe and your art work… well it shines so brilliantly. There is a joy and a sadness working with the homeless which we have done for many years. Each homeless person has a story and we have always said there is a fine line between us having someplace called home that is relatively safe and those having no home. Our prayers are with all that are homeless and those that work with the homeless and those that help the homeless. This post you have done brings wonderful light to something we must all be aware of and if able help alleviate its sting.

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 10:01 am

      Very well said Tom and Audrey! (And Audrey I hope you have a great section hike!)

      • Reply usathroughoureyes July 13, 2017 at 1:16 pm

        Thanks Gabe. I leave tomorrow morning to the trail head. Weather is iffy but sure you have encountered that in your journey.

  • Reply Amy July 13, 2017 at 7:51 am

    Well written stories, Gabe. Your sketches are moving and touch my heart.
    Thank you so much for the magnificent post!

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 10:03 am

      Wow Amy. Thank you! I feel overly chuffed now. And not because I finally found a decent time to drag “chuffed” out of the dusty drawers 😉

  • Reply Ann Coleman July 13, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Your sketches are wonderful. And I’m not the least bit surprised that you can see beneath the stigma of homelessness to the real person underneath. You’re so right; each homeless person is unique and some are downright inspiring, in spite of the incredible difficulties of trying to live without any place to call home.

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 10:06 am

      Thank you so much Ann!

      And leave it to me to leave encounters with those who don’t have much feeling like I’m the one receiving the gifts.

  • Reply Alec Harper July 13, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Important post, Gabriel. When we slow our racing minds to see… I once stopped to help stop traffic for a homeless Korean-era vet and his gratitude was overwhelming.

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 10:20 am

      That doesn’t surprise me a bit Alec. Or the gratitude he expressed.

  • Reply watchingthedaisies July 13, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Such a compassionate and poignant post Gabe. I love your description of Gheorghita and your sketches especially the second. I recently read “A Streetcat named Bob” then watched the movie. They are both helping to raise awareness of the homeless, and for all those dear animals who are also needing a forever home. I count myself very blessed to have a roof over my head, running water and food on the table.

    • Reply Gabriel July 13, 2017 at 11:28 am

      I’ll have to add “Streetcar named Bob” to my TBR list. I suspect I’m going to enjoy it. Thanks

      • Reply watchingthedaisies July 13, 2017 at 12:35 pm

        I think you will. The movie is good too and Bob plays himself. He is a natural. ?

  • Reply Lucid Gypsy July 13, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    A really good post Gabe, good to read your honour and respect.

    • Reply Gabriel July 14, 2017 at 9:45 am

      I’m so glad you enjoyed. All this encouragement is really… encouraging! While I know that the people I described and sketched here are the sources of inspiration, y’all have really motivated me to work even harder to make this blog a better place!

  • Reply Lingyun July 13, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    What an view altering post. Your images are powerful, and your writing to go along with it.

    • Reply Gabriel July 14, 2017 at 9:42 am

      Thank you so much!

  • Reply the incurable dreamer July 13, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    What a deeply touching and stunning post, Gabe. We don’t know why some people end up homeless, but it is so important we remember that it could be any one of us, at any time. All these people have a story to tell, and it could be one of unimaginable loss that has led them to the streets. It is not for us to judge, but to simply remember that they are human, have hearts and feelings and are worthy of our compassion. I love how you have emphasized that here. You have captured the soul of that man with your intoxicating sketch. Wow. And, I couldn’t agree with you more, he is beautiful. Breathtakingly beautiful. I would much rather see his face on the cover of GQ or Vogue because I want to know the story behind those eyes. You are a beautiful human, Gabe, and I admire your vision and heart, so, so much.

    • Reply Gabriel July 14, 2017 at 9:37 am

      I know right? Several others have alluded to the fact that our lives could very easily have taken a very different turn if just one or a few overlooked events/decisions were altered.

      I’ve been trapped in dark dark places, and I still don’t exactly know how I got back on a more well-lit path. But I am incredibly grateful.

      And I think (at the risk of sounding sanctimonious-yuck) that these experiences have created a special place in my heart for those who are lost, defeated, and are forced to choose between bad and worse decisions about paths that will cause the least suffering.

      But meeting those exceptions, man it’s truly inspirational…

  • Reply Retirementallychallenged.com July 13, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    It’s so easy to look the other way when we walk by. But each person has a story and we need to listen. Each person is beautiful and we need to see. Thank you for your post and your art.

    • Reply Gabriel July 14, 2017 at 9:31 am

      Very true Janis. Taking the time and being mindful of those around us makes for a meaningful existence I think.

      I have to admit, it’s probably easier for me to take this time though because I am typically very introverted (when dealing with the real world), so my circle of friends is very small.

  • Reply Dave Ply July 14, 2017 at 12:09 am

    I freely admit I haven’t spent much time hanging out with the homeless, so what I know of them tends to be the more visible things: mental illness, drugs out of control, scary attitudes. What to do with folks like that is a hard question. As for the others, folks down on their luck but looking for a way out, we can only hope that society could help a little more instead of just considering them moochers.

    And that last painting is just amazing.

    • Reply Gabriel July 14, 2017 at 9:29 am

      I know I’m supposed to be humble here, but I have to admit, this sketch is probably one of my favorites. It’s almost good enough for me to shrug off my “rookie” training wheels…

  • Reply Di July 14, 2017 at 12:33 am

    Hello Gabe,
    What a beautiful post…
    While homelessness is a very difficult topic to manage, often we don’t know how to deal with it. You have shown love and kindness to some of them highlighted here not only through taking the time to learn their stories, but you have given them a voice and shared it here. I’d love to receive a blessing from Gheorghita. Your artwork is beautiful and very respectful. Joy in the park is a lovely concept too.
    Thank you for a truly special, heartfelt post ???

    • Reply Gabriel July 14, 2017 at 9:27 am

      Thanks Di! And I’ll check with Gheorghita when I see her next, maybe she can send a long distance blessing your way for safe travels and transition to London.

      • Reply Di July 14, 2017 at 9:42 pm

        Hello Gabe…. that’s really gorgeous of you. Thank you, I’d love that…???

        • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:17 pm

          Done. She says hello and asked me to share her belief that: “Tu și familia ta vei avea o viață lungă și bucuroasă” (you and your family will have a rich and happy life)

          • Di July 15, 2017 at 6:08 pm

            Oh Gabe… you have just made my day! I’m utterly touched and thrilled you would see Gheorghita and relay our message. I’m feeling the connection so much and thank you from Tony too.
            Please thank Gheorghita from the bottom of my heart and I value her blessing very much…it means a lot to someone on the other side of her world….
            I appreciate you too. You are awesome!
            Thank you,
            ???Di

  • Reply restlessjo July 14, 2017 at 7:11 am

    It’s all been said, Gabe. You have a talent and you have a huge capacity to look for the good in folks. My eyes are heavy from a poor night’s sleep. I’ll try to come back and read your hiking saga. 🙂 🙂 Have a good weekend!

    • Reply Gabriel July 14, 2017 at 9:21 am

      Thanks Jo! And please rest, I would hate to think that I contributed to a blogging related injury if you nodded off on your keyboard 😉

  • Reply Jay July 14, 2017 at 7:25 am

    It’s so important to really see these people.

    • Reply Gabriel July 14, 2017 at 9:19 am

      My life is already fuller as a result.

  • Reply Liesbet July 14, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    These are amazing sketches, Gabe! A moment of reflection to be in awe and have recognition for the less fortunate among us. Luckily, there are some positive moments in the lives of homeless people – being part of a community and laughing at the rushed “sterile” lives of others can even put a smile on my face, sometimes. 🙂

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      hehehe me too. It’s fun to watch “city slickers” scramble to make sure they are at the front of the hamster wheel 😉

  • Reply rhymelovingwriter July 14, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Amazing talent combined with genuine compassion – win/win in my eyes. Count me an instant fan!

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      Thank you so much, both for the wonderful comment and for following my humble little blog. Will do my best to make this a virtual trip worth remembering.

      And I’m looking forward to heading to your corner of the blogosphere as well!

      • Reply rhymelovingwriter July 15, 2017 at 7:03 pm

        I’d like that. In fact, would it be OK if I link to this post for a post I’m doing next week? I just started a series – of fortunate happenings – highlighting some GOOD NEWS to balance out some of the negativity often funneled through my feeds. Your story here would be a perfect headliner!

        • Reply Gabriel July 17, 2017 at 9:37 am

          Sorry about the delayed reply. It’s been hectic around here recently, but I wanted to take a moment to thank you so much for sharing this post on your blog. I’m honored!

  • Reply hair0002 July 15, 2017 at 1:14 am

    Great words with awesome sketches

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and dropping a comment. Feel free to return whenever the mood strikes!

  • Reply Lucy Mitchell July 15, 2017 at 3:14 am

    There should be more posts like this. Fantastic post. Thought provoking and makes you feel grateful for what you have in life.

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks Lucy. That would be awesome if this post triggered a bit of positivity!

  • Reply Ritu July 15, 2017 at 3:26 am

    Gabe these sketches are amazing! You can indeed learn a lot from people you meet every day!

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      hehehe you’re too kind Ritu. And it’s true, open heart and eyes make for eager students

  • Reply emfletche July 15, 2017 at 3:28 am

    Beautiful drawings Gabe, and thought-provoking words. Some of us are too cynical and it helps to take a step back and consider these people as human beings, with thoughts, opinions, passion and lives that do matter. You’ve inspired me to look a little more into helping those locally x

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      Wow you’re too awesome! Hard to believe that the “cynic’s curse” would come anywhere near ya.

  • Reply globalhousesitterX2 July 15, 2017 at 4:01 am

    You are very talented Gabe!. Everyone loves to be listened too and everyone has their own unique story, all worth listening too if you look deeper. There are so many good people out there with energy doing great things. Cheers to them all!

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      Isn’t that the truth thought! I like to call myself a “storyteller” sometimes, but really, the best stories I have to share are inspired by others that I happened to cross paths with while paying attention.

  • Reply carolineschroniclesblog July 15, 2017 at 4:15 am

    Lovely post & a timely reminder that everyone has a story & more importantly is valuable. Love the sketch, I keep scrolling back up to look at it!

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      Thank you so much Caroline! This truth (that we all have a story to share) is really sinking in for me now.

  • Reply Debbie Harris July 15, 2017 at 5:23 am

    This is a lovely, heartfelt post and your sketches are fantastic Gabe!! You have summed it up with compassion and honesty. I worked in a jail for many years and saw many such characters, heard stories and felt deeply for those living such a different life to what I was living. I really enjoyed your take on this issue.

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      Wow Deb! I didn’t know your experiences extended to work in a jail. How fascinating! I’ll have to dig a bit deeper in your blog to see if I can find traces.

      • Reply Debbie Harris July 19, 2017 at 2:21 am

        I didn’t ever write much about it until the government decided to make all teachers redundant and replace us with a private provider. Apparently that was a cheaper option!

  • Reply Gary July 15, 2017 at 5:36 am

    Solid post Gabe and the sketches are truly amazing and capture the essence of homelessness very well. Stark reminders that such positions are not really that many steps away for many people. Shocking really that in this day and age many westernised countries still have very little real support structure. Really makes one feel humbled that life is never as bad as it seems when you compare it to some of these people. Kudos for this my friend!

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Actually, I’m beginning to appreciate the fact that in more developed countries, where income disparities are huge, there is an unspoken motivation to suppress those with “less than” in order to retain power, or resources, or information. But I absolutely agree, its unfortunate .

      • Reply Gary July 16, 2017 at 10:35 am

        I think there is a tipping point in civilisations where hedonism begins to set in; politicos become weaker and parties polarise into getting into power by any means they can. Right and Left wing do it in exactly the same way from a character profile with polar opposite views; I’m right, you’re wrong then they start shouting at you saying you are wrong, then comes the spittle and red face. (granted slight hyperbole in action), but its an old formula if you observe history. The common goals and long term objectives turn to short term want it now. Here your observation is true too; most politicos come from affluent backgrounds, go to the same universities doing the same courses. I don’t think any of them really care for anything, but saying what the electorate (or their side of it) wants to hear…which is not always the right decision. Flipping could rant and soap box stuff Gabe. What happened to reasoned debate and finding solutions not just continuous problems that you can blame on someone else?

        • Reply Gabriel July 17, 2017 at 9:43 am

          hehehe I see a whole blog post in this comment Gary. Love it. A little bit hectic here right now, so I can see part of the resistance to “reasonable debate and finding solutions.” This path requires far more work, and sacrifice, and patience than huddling in a homogenous camp filled with familiar faces and shared values.

          • Gary July 17, 2017 at 9:56 am

            One solution might work; two opposed political leaders, one locked room, no food or water…discuss and find a solution to escape.

            1. Escape and solution found
            2. Untimely ends; alternative solution found

            You might be right…there is indeed a whole blog post in this one!!

          • Gabriel July 17, 2017 at 9:59 am

            hehehe two monsters enter… only one exits. Pretty sure Churchhill would say that THIS is the best form of government, except all others that have been tried thus far 😉

          • Gary July 17, 2017 at 1:25 pm

            Very true, but one could throw in the permutation both leave or none leave so quit arguing and agree on some sensible stuff instead of bickering. If they can’t then adios, we’ll move to the next two in line. Could be mileage as a reality game show too ?

  • Reply SickChristine July 15, 2017 at 5:46 am

    Excellent. I have been rendered speechless. My husband thanks you.

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      hehehehe I don’t believe it. not for a second.

  • Reply anhistorianabouttown July 15, 2017 at 7:03 am

    These sketches are amazing, you are incredibly talented!! It is so important to remember that any of us could be in their position, and that everyone deserves kindness and compassion, no matter what they may happen to look like. Here in Winnipeg, homeless people will die in the winter- when it’s -45°C out, warm clothes aren’t enough. It’s not like people sought out to be homeless, circumstances often out of their control brought it about. Wonderful post!!

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      -45! Makes me want to turn down my A/C for a few minutes (not enough to actually do it of course, it’s scorching here, but still…).

      And thanks so much for the wonderful compliments!

  • Reply Andrea Stephenson July 15, 2017 at 7:34 am

    I love the sketches – particularly the last one, which is very striking and one that will stay in my memory for a while. You’ve done a great job of bring stories to life behind the people that many will just ignore.

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      Thank you Andrea. And I’ll admit, I’ve taken a few extra peeks at that last sketch myself. It really does stick around for awhile 😉

  • Reply angelanoelauthor July 15, 2017 at 7:54 am

    You handled a difficult subject beautifully. The sketches evoke emotion just enough abstracted from reality to make the eye look more deeply. I’ve noticed when reality smacks me in the face, when the hardship of others is too painful for me, I turn away. It’s the exact opposite reaction of saintly people–but it’s true. It’s almost like information overload. I feel like I can’t do everything to help, so I do nothing instead. In this post you offer a way in for me or for others to see the little points of joy in hardship. Not to excuse the situation, but to see the plight of others clearly–yes the bad, but the good, too. It helps put pity and shame on the back seat, and empathy and connection up front.

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      Angela! Thank you so much for this. I was a bit worried that I would come across as a heavy-handed or sanctimonious (yikes).

      Not surprising at all to see that you’ve nailed the essence of what I was trying to share- but far more succinctly and beautifully.

  • Reply fancypaperblog July 15, 2017 at 8:33 am

    These are just stunning. I love the realism accompanying them. I would be the one wanting to just sit and write in the park?

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      hehehe me too. In fact, I’m really missing the chance to write again now… these past few days have been too busy with “life” stuff.

  • Reply Lisa Orchard July 15, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Great sketches. Great post. It makes me sad when I think about the homeless. I wish there were something I could do for them, but it’s a huge undertaking and I don’t know where to begin.

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      I understand Lisa. I really do. I don’t have any solutions either, but it has been such a gift to spend some time with a few people I otherwise wouldn’t have met and briefly share in their lives.

  • Reply D. Wallace Peach July 15, 2017 at 10:02 am

    A wonderful, kind, and inspiring post, Gabe, with lovely artwork. Homeless people are so often grouped into one profile when in truth, they are people with diverse histories, personalities, talents, and stories. Thanks for sharing your experiences. 🙂

    • Reply Gabriel July 15, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      Very true D. Different stories…
      which reminds me, I better get writing again 😉

  • Reply Deb July 15, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Wow Gabe, I love your sketches! You have a way of capturing the humanity and expressing it in your sketches. You can see the weathered man has such a lifetime of stories to tell as does the gentleman sitting on the sidewalk. We may feel for them and their situation, but I wonder if many of them feel for us and our situation and are glad to be where they are, like painting in the park! Who wouldn’t rather do that? Great post, thanks for sharing your art and thoughts!! 🙂

    • Reply Gabriel July 17, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Thanks Deb, I’m glad you enjoyed the sketches. And you’re right, the view of the world from “the other side” is often more colorful than we think. That day painting in the park while everyone else scurried about was a treat.

      • Reply Deb July 17, 2017 at 4:50 pm

        I truly did. What a lovely way to spend a day!! 🙂

  • Reply Neighborly Love and Unexpected Gifts (SofFH#2) - RhymeLovingWriter™ July 16, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    […] on the list of beautiful stories to share is this blog by Gabe Burkhardt! Gabe shares his reflections on how he’s been unexpectedly blessed by homeless […]

    • Reply Gabriel July 17, 2017 at 9:52 am

      Thanks again for sharing!

      • Reply rhymelovingwriter July 22, 2017 at 10:53 am

        Thank YOU for writing it – so I had something wonderful to share!

  • Reply Unbound Roots July 16, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    Beautiful sketches, beautiful words, and a kind heart who shared them both. Thank you for another great read.

  • Reply ellenbest24 July 17, 2017 at 6:08 am

    There for the grace of the universe go us all. A superb post full of love art and generosity.

    • Reply Gabriel July 17, 2017 at 9:54 am

      Thanks Ellen! And so true!

  • Reply rgayer55 July 17, 2017 at 8:04 am

    My wife was a gardener at the city park for several years. She interacted with a good number of these folks. I remember her mentioning a young couple, both were simple-minded, or mentally challenged (however you want to say it), She gave them coats for the winter and extended a few other simple kindnesses. They began to follow her around like puppy dogs. It was hard to break away.

    It’s sad how many are out there. Each one has a story. God bless them all.

    • Reply Gabriel July 17, 2017 at 9:47 am

      This reminds me: time to donate our old clothes. Thanks Russell

  • Reply bedlamanddaisies July 17, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Beautiful sketches Gabe! And I love the insight that you’ve shared. 🙂

    • Reply Gabriel July 18, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks so much! They were a lot of fun to create.

  • Reply bhavesh July 17, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    A wonderful, kind, and inspiring post
    Thanks , For Sharing This Articles
    Keep sharing and have a great time blogging.

  • Reply Ryan Biddulph July 18, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    Gabe great blog! You are doing awesome over here. Well done dude.

    I love your message. I have learned so much from folks all over the world, all hailing from different cultures, different financial backgrounds, different ways of life. I recall many homeless folks in India who were A-OK. Totally accepting of their life. No resistance. Actually happy. Because they didn’t suffer or resist their circumstances.

    Keep up the great work 🙂

    • Reply Gabriel July 18, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      Holy Crap! Hey Ryan, I didn’t expect a blogging superstar to head over to my humble little blog AND leave a comment! I guess this makes me famous by proxy right?

      And this is a great point. A big part of the “misery” of homelessness is the forced perception that we are “less than.” When this is removed, women like Gheorghita cease to be objects worthy of pity and become venerated, contributing members of the community. Love this.

  • Reply Re-blog… ‘Unexpected gifts from my homeless friends —By (Almost) Unsalvageable.’ – Matters for the heart July 19, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    […] via Unexpected gifts from my homeless friends — (Almost) Unsalvageable […]

    • Reply Gabriel July 22, 2017 at 7:09 am

      This is SOOO awesome! Thanks for the re-blog Di!

      • Reply Di July 22, 2017 at 10:13 pm

        You’re so welcome Gabe…it was my pleasure ???

  • Reply camcamcammiecamblog July 19, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Wow! So much talent here. Thank you for sharing.

    • Reply Gabriel July 22, 2017 at 7:16 am

      Thank you vey much. Glad you enjoyed the sketches!

  • Reply The Hook July 24, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Thank you for the beautiful, moving post, Gabe.

    • Reply Gabriel July 25, 2017 at 7:25 pm

      Cheers Hook.

  • Reply Bespoke Traveler July 24, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Love your sketches on this very relevant post. You’ve inspired me to stop and greet more of them in my travels and listen to more of their stories.

    • Reply Gabriel July 25, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      Thats awesome! And glad you enjoyed.

  • Reply candidkay July 24, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Oh, Gabe, such a beautiful window into these people. Thank you for sharing. This one will stick with me.

  • Reply columntribe August 6, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    Beautiful! Also check out this post on how some iconic combinations symbolize friendship! https://columntribe.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/happy-friendships-day/

    • Reply Gabriel August 12, 2017 at 9:03 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation! One I get a chance to catch n=my breath, I’ll be sure to check it out!

    Now it's your turn to play!

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