Hey, everyone! J.R. here.
Kelsey and I continue to be completely amazed at how The Facing Project has grown, and the ripple impact it has had beyond individual Facing communities. For example, “Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne” is now being used in universities as far away as Florida, and “Facing Autism in Muncie” is being shared with Evansville schools for teacher training. When we first started The Facing Project a little over a year ago, we never imagined these every day first-person stories of families and neighbors would end up in the hands of Ph.Ds. and used as a teaching tool to help tomorrow’s leaders better understand society—but now we can’t think of a better way to help students learn.
Overall, what makes us most proud is the voice Facing has given to storytellers, writers, and the Facing communities. It’s the coming together of individuals from all facets of life that makes what’s happening so unique and special. It is the Facing communities and their organizers who are the true heroes to bring often unheard voices to life.
To honor the work, once a week we’ll be sharing stories from Facing Projects with you through this blog.
This week we want to start with a story from “Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne”: “The Man in the Last Pew,” as told to Curtis Crisler by an anonymous homeless man. What we like about this particular story is the distinct imagery used to describe an escape to happiness in times of loneliness and despair. The power of memory. The story is short and sweet, but the impact it left on us is longstanding and deep.
We hope you enjoy this one as much as we do. To read more stories from “Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne,” check out their site.
The Man in the Last Pew
—with the same name as mine
It’s a little thing for me to live through these cards.
They show the places that make my mind smile—
places I’d live in if I knew magic, or didn’t have
the job of owning all of the dreams of my past.
Christmas cards are easier to live in. I’ve collected more
than 3,000 cards since 1985. The reds and the blues
that glitter have a different meaning when I
can put my hands on the edges of their frame.
People make me scratch my head. People take more
time to show off true colors. And people forget people
are not all hard. When in state’s hands, I thought
I would miss people, but the medicine made me
only depend on the movies in my mind, scenes where
Mama sat in our living room, while I read how the words
to the Bible move in this life, without the worry
of her suffering.
Suffering comes like daylight into my bedroom,
now, taking me out of the darkness,
into creaky pews of Mission Church on Pearl Street.
I bring with me Mama memories—the birthday
and Christmas cards I hand out to the worn faces
I have come to smile at in my come back to the world.
I could be a mad dog about it all, but I have food, the
warmth of my apartment, and how God put new
light in my head. The new moved out the old,
and no institution will tie down my dreams, now. I accept
all my nightmares, and all bright daylight shining too.
—As told to Curtis L. Crisler