This is Kenneth.
He approached me last week in a busy parking lot as I was getting into my car. He was holding a brand new box for a T-mobile phone and a couple of credit cards.
Within seconds of meeting him he began to tell me his misfortune of running out of gas. Of course, I was skeptical from the get go, since he was holding items of value in his hands. But as I listened to his story, my heart began to lighten up. There was something genuine about this man. He just wanted a few bucks to get back to his house. After listening to his story, I opened my wallet and handed him the last six dollars cash I had. I wished him luck and expected him to leave, but to my surprise, he stuck around.
He then leaned on my car door like a friend would, still talking to me about his difficulties lately. Before I knew it, this larger, elderly gentleman was in tears, explaining how hard of a time he’s been having. His mother and his son died in a car accident four months ago. He said to me with glistening eyes, “you just never expect for your own children to go before you, you know?” I swallowed and felt a weight in my throat. I later found out he was involved in the accident as well. At this point, I knew he wasn’t trying to milk any cash out of me since he had seen me pull the last money out of my wallet for him.
I asked him if I could take his picture and he agreed. While I photographed him, he told me he doesn’t practice religion but he does believe in God. “It’s so hard for me to believe in a higher being right now. If there is a God, why does he torture me like this? Sometimes I hate to say it, but I just don’t really feel like living anymore.” This shot was his facial expression just after he finished that sentence.
A long pause between us occurred. I had to remind him that life is an ongoing test, and that he’d made it through all of the hardships before. This is just the hardest one yet. Everything we go through is an experience to help us make it through the next chapter. He put his arm around my shoulder and told me I’m a good man. And just like that, off he went.
Now, a week later, I am going through some hardships of my own. As I sat in bed last night, I stumbled across this photograph on my camera and remembered Kenneth’s story. It’s easy to pity yourself in your own misfortune, but it’s also even easier to forget how little your own life hurdles matter in the grand scheme of things. Today, I’m grateful for Kenneth coming into my life, even if only for a few minutes.