It's difficult to not share a day when something beautiful happens. Doing that would be like suppressing the joy I had the first time I rode a bike, got my first pet or learned how to make a pie with my grandma. Unbeknownst to Randy and I, that day last spring taught us much and we are always so pleasantly surprised when goodness comes at the least expected times.
As Randy and I returned to our studio, bone tired after an all day location shoot, I just wanted to go home and get in my tacky pajamas, eat a burrito and call it a day. However, a homeless couple approached us as we unlocked the door, and our day was about to take a twist. Being worn out, our first inclination was to brush the couple off, but our hearts immediately spoke differently.
The man, Chris (a.k.a. Hollywood), politely introduced himself and kindly asked if Randy would take photos of him and his girlfriend, Missy. "We are homeless but I do have some money to pay for the photos. We just want special pictures of us for our kids and family," says Chris. Class and goodness comes in all kinds of people, I hope we never lose sight of this. Of course we were deeply touched by his kindness and offered the shoot as a gift. What evolved next not only changed us, but brought love to their lives.
Chris and Missy's love story began years ago and they say "we feel like we have known one another forever." Chris was born and raised in Hawaii, is a self-proclaimed "chef by trade, a jack of all trades, but master of none." He jokes a lot, is very smart, and has a set of the most beautiful eyes we have ever seen. "I had a hard time with my ex-wife and then got hemmed up with drugs and stuff, and served five years in prison. I got hooked bad on drugs, but, I haven't put steel to my vein with heroin for 12 years, praise God! It was a $180 a day habit. I now have been off crack for eight years, and am trying to do something good with my life. I just had to give the drugs up, because you know, if you can't stand up, you can't sit down, you know what I mean?" said Chris. "I am a hobo but I can still help other brothers out on the streets. I can still pay it forward, you know? You gotta pay it forward, no matter your circumstances, and think of others. Just because you don't have something, you probably have more than someone else."
Missy is from Missouri, and her sweet smile is a reflection of her heart. She is trying to get off of the streets so she can get her children back. "I'm on probation and struggle with addiction, so I know my children are best staying at my dad's house for now. It may sound like a paradox, but I've been homeless for five years yet I'm going back to college for Building and Maintenance, I'm really trying hard!" says Missy. Chris jokes, "That way she can become my handyman." Missy laughs and says, "No, that would be a handy girl." Chris agrees she is a keeper and says, "She is a keeper...but I will keep her in the basement." Missy says, "Chris, you are in the dog house all of the time!" Chris' comeback? "Well at least you can build the dog house!" They both laugh and give one another a hug. Humor and wisdom gained after being married before keeps them together and positive.
Missy said her dream is to mentally and financially be stable. "I want to be able to pay my bills and get my kids back. I got a boy with Down's Syndrome and he is my sunshine. He still doesn't talk, and is in diapers at age 9. When he smiles he lights up the room. My daughter is 15, a joy to me. I am 44 and for all of my life I supported them and did what I needed to do, but all of a sudden everything fell apart because of meth. It is an up and down roller coaster, but what addiction ain’t?" she says. "I will get there though with God’s grace. I had a job and was stable and off of the streets for a year and a half, then my position was eliminated, so I'm back on the streets. But God has given me hope." Chris banters in with high hope: "Yep,hey, any day above ground is a good day though, right?
Chris says his dream is to be whole again: "I just want to be real and feel like a whole man again. I don't want to live under a bridge or be the trouble under the bridge. I'd rather be the toll keeper, not the toll. I want to hold my daughter again, she lives in California. I 'd like to sit in my front yard, at least have a front yard, and not that one is controlled by the city. I do believe this can come true. I'm a firm believer in Christ , he's one of my best friends. I have a box full of different Bibles. When Christ comes back, I know I'll be alright."
Surprisingly, after all Chris and Missy have been through, they strive each day to stay upbeat and offer hope to others. "I have been through eight military tours, so after that, life seems easy. I earned two Purple Hearts, so if I can get through all of that, drug addiction and surviving prison, it's all gravy now, you know?" says Chris.
Missy's advice to others trying to get off drugs and the street is to "always try and be the good Samaritan, a Christian, and care about your brothers and sisters. If we all did just that, everything else would be good. There is hope in all things."
Compassion is never convenient, but my tacky pajamas and burrito were still waiting for me when it was all said and done. The only difference was, after meeting Chris and Missy, my pajamas felt even softer, and the burrito tasted even better.
--By Shannon Bacon