Amy "Heart on Fire"


When the girls were babies, people would stop me in the grocery store or on the street and say, “enjoy this goes by so fast”. They weren’t lying.  All of the sudden my youngest was getting ready to start kindergarten and my oldest was in third grade. What the hell happened?  

Earlier this year, my five year old daughter looked up at me and asked, “Mommy, why do you go to work if it makes you so sad?”  

Well heck, this was a great question. I was a marketing executive at a leading national creative agency- and for a long time it was my dream job. But I was tired.  My time and energy was eaten up by something that, over the years, I felt less and less passion for. I realized that not only does the time go by too fast, but if I was going to spend time away from my two girls, I had damn well better be doing something that matters; something that set my heart on fire.  

I looked in my daughter’s eyes and said, “I don’t know kiddo.  But I’m going to fix this.” 

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A few weeks later Randy and I met for coffee. I had been on the board of directors at 7 Billion Ones for about three years. Randy told me about the unbelievable growth at 7B1 and he mentioned that he was looking for a Movement Director. It hit me right then.  I stopped him immediately and told him to stop looking, because I was going to be his Director.   

I officially joined the 7B1 team in June of this year.  Within a few weeks I found myself at the Kansas City Down Syndrome Guild, photographing and interviewing individuals for our upcoming project Just As I Am.  I’ve been editing the stories of suicide survivors for the opening of  It Knows No Face exhibition in Fort Collins Colorado. We are printing portraits and stories of our homeless friends for the The Road I Call Home exhibition opening next month at the Springfield Art Museum.  The list goes on and on. Every day I am humbled to meet beautiful people from all walks of life who share their experiences and trust me with their greatest treasure- their story.   

I’ve spent the last 10 years learning to take emotion out of my work- remove the flowery language, speak to the point, do the spreadsheets, etc. The strangest thing happened when people became more important than profit...I could breathe. I felt like I was drowning for so long.  Now I am encouraged to work as passionately as possible- not only do I need emotion in this work, my job is literally to ignite and kindle compassion and emotion in people.  

I go home at night and smile. Now the time I spend “working” is actually making me a better wife and mother.  I kiss my kids and my husband and I’m reminded how blessed I am in this life.  


If someone would have told me a year ago that I would quit my job to direct a humanitarian movement...I would have told them they were insane.  But I did. It’s funny when you can say that you know it’s been a good day when you cry at work. And I cry tears of joy and tears of compassion almost daily.  

I am blessed to be part of this amazing organization and honored to be on this journey with Randy and team, changing the world one story at a time.

Unity In Vulnerability - Autumn

I want to share a personal experience as to how powerful it can be to watch someone share their story. This feeling is infectious. I want you to feel this way too. I want to read more stories that make me laugh cry and provide perspective. I want you to share your story.

I’ve been along for a lot of the ride through Autumn’s battle with addiction. Her younger sister is my best friend and her family is like a second family to me. I remember my best friend going through the phases of accepting her sister’s addiction. Confusion, anger, sadness, acceptance. For the first few years I had been friends with her sister I had never met Autumn. I had heard stories, some followed with laughs and some with tears. To me she was just a family picture or a hushed topic of conversation.

Photo by  Randy Bacon

Photo by Randy Bacon

Two years ago I got a text that Autumn would be coming home. I was so happy for my friend and her family. I knew they were all nervous about how it would play out. I didn’t know what to expect from her either. I hadn’t met her before and really only wanted the best for everyone. When Autumn got home, it was only up from there. She hit the ground running. I have gotten to watch her blossom into such a beautiful and inspiring person.

I recently joined the team at Seven Billion Ones. The first story I got to do all on my own from start to finish was Autumn’s and I think there is something so poetic in that. I spent my so long looking at her to see what NOT to do, and now here I am, soaking up every bit of wisdom I can get out of her.

Watching her share her story was beautiful. There is so much power in vulnerability. Her smile is contagious, she holds herself with such confidence in who she is, where she has been and where she is going. I loved looking in her eyes and seeing her so humbled and overjoyed. She did it. I think she felt that feeling all over again. And now she can help someone else get one step closer to feeling that way too. This is why I love hearing people's stories. There is always something to be learned, some way to be healed, and somebody to be saved. Speak up, someone is always listening.


Photo by  Randy Bacon

Photo by Randy Bacon

The Ripple Effect - Ethan

Written by Larissa
Ethan, Randy and Larissa

Ethan, Randy and Larissa

Last week, our new friend Ethan came to the studio for the photo shoot portion of the process of sharing his story with 7 Billion Ones, and we had such a great time playing catch with him outside, and sharing how sharing stories have empowered us and so many to go out and change the world, to love people better, and to see each other as the special and wonderful individuals that each of us are. Ethan also shared how he came to know another 7 Billion Ones storyteller - Will - who shared his story on 7 Billion Ones years ago. Like Ethan, Will has alopecia, and upon reading his story, Ethan was so impacted by the common thread they share, that he reached out to Will and they formed a special friendship...uniting on common ground and reminding each other that we are not alone, and that there are others who face the same tough stuff in our lives that we go through...we can stand in solidarity with others and help bring hope and healing to others, just by speaking up and saying, "Me too". What a beautiful connection!!! That is so much for what 7B1 is all about. 

Ethan wrote about his experience from the photo shoot and published it on his blog ‘Whispered Writing’ as a part of a resolution and project he calls ‘For Love of the Game - Marking Time with Baseball’ where he plays catch with a baseball and someone different every day of 2018. He takes a picture with whoever he plays catch with and writes a short story about it. Last week was our turn to play catch with Ethan and we were so touched by the thoughtful questions that he asked us and the post he published about our time together on his blog. Check out his blog here and read about our time together in his short story below.

Ethan, thanks for choosing to share your story and for loving people so well. We are so looking forward to sharing your story on 7 Billion Ones soon! Welcome to the 7 Billion Ones family!

'For Love of the Game' - by Ethan Bryan - May 1, 2018 - Day #121

The name of the movement is also the inspiration. Seven billion ones. We get lost in the bigness of the world, the 7 billion people. As ones, as individuals, we lose sight of how important and special each of us are. This journey is chock full of stories that are there for a reason, that remind us we are here for a reason. These stories need to be shared to inspire, to impact, to live fully, and to heal others.” - Founder Randy Bacon

Mom introduced me to Randy’s work when we moved back to Springfield in 2012. Randy is an award-winning photographer with a studio located in the heart of downtown. As a photographer and filmmaker, Randy has traveled around the world capturing stories that connect and empower people. A couple of years ago, Randy created a new non-profit — 7 Billion Ones — combining photography and story.

“When you get to the core of a person, I really think that people love people. Yet there are so many times we can feel pretty alone. We think we’re the only one living out this story. Seeing and reading other stories becomes this bridge that connect lives. It shows that you are not alone. Each of us are so unique, so special, so important, so necessary. I deeply believe that every story, every individual, every life counts equally. Everyone has a story, they just need an opportunity to share it; that’s why 7 Billion Ones exists, to share those stories.”

Because of 7 Billion Ones, I met Will. Our families went to dinner at Chick-fil-A a couple summers ago and talked about life and baseball and the beautiful joy of being bald. I even wrote a poem about Will and Joel, my two friends who are blessed with perfect hair.

Yellow light ran
red, blue lights flashed
“What’s wrong with this world
is skinheads like you!”
black and white lawman berated.
Ticket issued.
Tears blinked back.
Retch contained.
Bald since 6, beyond my control.
Thirty years later,
I still feel his voice
I still fear
trailing patrol cars.
Two friends
Joel, Will
decades younger
also have
perpetually perfect
My simple prayer:
Be brave, boys.
Be kind, Springfield.


Ethan and Larissa (Movement Director at 7 Billion Ones) playing catch!

Ethan and Larissa (Movement Director at 7 Billion Ones) playing catch!

I told my story of dinner with Will to Randy and Larissa.

“I call that the ripple effect,” he said with a gentle smile.

I was thrilled for the opportunity to meet and talk with Randy. I was somewhat nervous about the thought of him taking my pictures. The three of us walked to the same field where I played catch with Tim from Hurts Donut Company and talked about movies and TV shows.

Larissa’s favorite movie is Dan in Real Life. At his daughter’s encouragement, Randy finally watched The Office and Parks & Rec. I recommended Eureka to both of them.

I do not think I would make a good model. I am not very comfortable on the front side of a lens; I’m far too self-conscious.

After a few minutes of posed pictures, Larissa stepped away from the lights and played catch with me. That was wonderful. Randy continued to take pictures as we tossed the ball, but at least I had something to do with my hands.

“I think the last time I played catch I was on a softball team in middle school.”

In a field full of the greenest clover, under gray skies and with a strong south wind, we tossed the ball and continued telling stories. It was a perfect spring day.

And then I tried to take a selfie of Larissa and Randy; once again, I felt rather self-conscious.

“We are called to live life day by day. It’s way too easy to think too much about the future and too much about the past. In most respects, we have no control over either. What I’m learning from my story and sharing the stories of others is this day is meant to be magical. No matter what happens during the day, it will be filled with moments of blessing and inspiration. You just have to look for them."

Life is story.

Art & People Changing Lives - The Road I Call Home Exhibit

Written by Larissa
Movement Director, Larissa

Movement Director, Larissa

Art cannot change the world, but it can contribute to changing the consciousness and drives of the people who could change the world.”  - Herbert Marcus

“The very first story I read on years ago was a moment I didn’t even realize at the time that would change my life forever. I spent hours reading story after story, I cried a lot, felt so many emotions, and then knew I had to do something about it...I knew that somehow, I was being inspired to take action, that I had to do everything I could do make a difference in people’s lives, to be involved with 7 Billion Ones in some way, and I had to meet more people and hear their stories. Years later, today I am honored and overjoyed when people ask me what I do, and I tell them that I let people’s authentic selves wreck my world (in a really good way) every single day through the power of stories and portrait photography. The Road I Call Home exhibit holds a very special place in my heart and no matter how many times I have seen the portraits, re-read the stories, or how much time we’ve spent with our storytellers featured in this exhibit, there is so much raw honesty, beauty, perspective and love in those images and stories - in the people - that they never fail to keep reminding me of the importance of telling people that they have inherent worth, that we all have the power to change the world, that we are already enough exactly as we are today. Every single person and story has the power to greatly impact someone’s life, to inspire ourselves and others to change the world, and to love people and ourselves without judgement, but with unconditional compassion and empathy.

The portrait images featured in The Road I Call Home of our homeless friends are so much more than art and stories. We want to bring dignity, hope and healing to each individual featured and it has been our true honor to know them and that they have chosen to be a part of something that changes lives for the better. Our friends are invited to our upcoming exhibit event night during First Friday Art Walk on April 6th from 6:30-8pm that is open to the public and we hope you can stop by to meet our storytellers, experience the portrait, stories and film of our homeless friends, and say hello! Invite your friends and if you aren’t in town for this event, the exhibit is still up for public viewing during the week until April 20th. You can also read dozens of stories from The Road I Call Home here.

We hope to see you there and hear how you are inspired to make a difference in the world around you."


"Why Can't We All Be Friends?" - Steven's Backstory

Written by Larissa
Steven Baumgarner-017.jpg

Have you ever felt misunderstood or judged wrongly because of your outward appearance? Do you struggle with getting along with people who think, believe or live differently than you? Odds are, like the rest of us, you have experienced unfair prejudice a few times at least in your life, and also that you, like everyone else, has wrongly judged someone at first glance.

These words come from a new friend of ours, Steven, who has been on and off the streets for the last year and a half (he is almost 21 currently) since he turned 19 years old.

Why can’t we all be friends? Sure we have different beliefs and stuff but we can still be friends. I don’t see the need for all this hate and putting someone down and everything. We could all be building people up, even if we have different walks in life. You can still build another person up...just watch how much the better the world gets for it.

One of our street friends brought Steven in to share his story last week, and in between telling us his life story and doing voice impressions that left us rolling in laughter, we heard so much wisdom and compassion in his words and saw it reflected in his eyes. In Steven’s story interview, he spoke so passionately about the desire for us all to get along, and he reminded us how important it is to just be your authentic self, no matter what other people think or say about you. He spoke about loving people unconditionally, and truly believes that we have the power to make a difference in the world around us when we speak love instead of hate into people’s lives. His desire is for people to get to know another person’s heart before they judge quickly based on how someone appears on the outside. It really is what’s on the inside that counts.

Steven, it was an honor to meet you and we are so overjoyed to welcome you into the 7 Billion Ones family. His story and portraits will be featured in ‘The Road I Call Home’ exhibit and published on in the coming weeks, and we are very excited to see the impact his incredible story and portrait images touches the lives of people all over the world, from all walks of life. You can read more stories from our homeless and street friends HERE.

"A Better Way" - Homeless in Oklahoma City

Written by Larissa
7 Billion Ones team (Larissa, Randy & Matt), Terra from Gathering Friends and two officers from the OKC PD Homeless Outreach Team, Felix and Bobby.

7 Billion Ones team (Larissa, Randy & Matt), Terra from Gathering Friends and two officers from the OKC PD Homeless Outreach Team, Felix and Bobby.

What would our hometowns look like and how would the way we look at the homeless community change if our cities worked to help give a hand up to people experiencing homelessness, instead of ignoring the problem or making it worse by tearing down the spaces some have to lay their head at night or just fining people time and time again for occupying a space? The Homeless Outreach Team (H.O.T) of Oklahoma City recognized that there is a better way to work towards eliminating homelessness by working directly with the homeless population to improve living conditions and offer services, thereby improving public safety and increasing quality of life. The Oklahoma City Police Department is making a real difference in their community through HOT and we were absolutely thrilled to be invited to see how they operate and meet some of the homeless population they the know and serve.


In March of 2017, along with two of the founders of Gathering Friends for the Homeless (based out of Springfield, Mo), we traveled to OKC to photograph and chronicle some of those individual’s stories, in partnership with the OCPD HOT, and were blown away to not only see and experience the way the officers interacted with the homeless individuals that we met, but that the respect between both was mutual. Every new friend we met had nothing but kind words, gratitude and respect for the officers who were so genuine in every interaction and had clearly built a trusting friendship through actually providing resources, supplies, and a helping hand.


As we walked through the campsites spread across acres of woods, we were warmly introduced to the people that occupied each tent, and were honored to hear their stories. Each person we met was wonderfully unique, spoke highly of the people in their community, allowed us to capture their portrait, and told us about their lives leading up to now, their experiences, their family, life and love...each person beautifully different from the next, and yet so alike in the way that all humans are - seeking hope, love and acceptance. We watched the way Carl cared for his sick dog as his own child, we listened to Pops speak about the beauty of nature, his infectious laugh still replaying in my ears, we watched Amanda and her husband argue with each other about keeping their tent tidy, and then tease each other lovingly...we learned a lot about the importance of family, taking care of what you have, and being fearless in the face of disease and sickness from Sarge (who was wearing a shirt that read ‘People Need People’ the day we met him)....these individuals and the other handful of people we had the pleasure of meeting and chronicling the stories of became our friends in no time at all, reminded us the importance of seeing things from someone else's perspective, and impacted our hearts and minds in countless ways.

In the coming weeks, we are so excited to be sharing each of their stories, along with the stories of 2 officers in the Homeless Outreach Team in Oklahoma City that guided us through the campsites that day. We are so inspired by the work the HOT of OKC has implemented into their communities that make a real difference in the lives of the homeless population, as well as the city a whole. It is our hope that we can learn from them and start to make the necessary changes in our own community of Springfield, Missouri, as well as inspire and motivate people all over the world to do the same. There is a better way to go about making changes in the world around you that involve taking the time to understand people, assisting with resources, and providing care and dignity to people equally, not just seeing things or people as a “problem” that needs to be solved, or an “issue” that can just be ignored. If you take the time to know someone’s heart and their life, it’s amazing how you realize how alike we all are. Each of us desires and deserves to be loved, to be accepted, to be respected and to live life to the fullest, regardless of what skewed perception society might label you with. The homeless are more than a statistic or misunderstood person...they are beautiful, one-of-a-kind individuals whose lives matter just as the same as yours and mine.

Stories and portraits of the homeless population in Oklahoma City will be a part of the ongoing ‘The Road I Call Home’ project and will be featured soon on You can experience the short film, portraits and stories of dozens of people now who have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness by clicking here.

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The purpose of the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) is to ensure OCPD remains sensitive to the unique needs of the homeless population while responding to the concerns of the greater community. HOT works with homeless individuals linking them with valuable social services to improve their living conditions thereby improving public safety.  

Their mission is to impact the homeless community through positive police contact and community partnerships with the ultimate purpose of altering the homeless person’s perspective on life, and potential for getting needed services and assistance. The Homeless Outreach Team serves the community by coordinating efforts between law enforcement, local, state and private agencies that provide services to at risk homeless in the City who are living on the streets and considered Chronically Homeless. 

Larissa "Love Changes Everything"

A Backstory written by 7 Billion Ones' Movement Director, Larissa

Intro: What does it take for someone to really believe that their life is important? How many of us have spent so much time feeling unworthy of genuine care and love, that we don't measure up, that our story, our life isn't important or unique? This is something that humans from all walks of life, all over the world struggle with and societal pressures can often be so strong that we believe the lie that we have to do or be something else, something or someone other than who we already are in order to be deserving of love and to be valued. One of the reasons 7 Billion Ones was created and exists is because we truly believe that every single life is important and valuable, that each one of us has the power to make a difference, and that by empowering each other to love ourselves and others well, we can make a radical change in hearts and minds wherever we go.

"People ask me often what my favorite part of my job is, or what the coolest thing I get to do is. Those questions always makes me smile, and a dozen things I love about what we do at 7 Billion Ones flood my mind each time. I think about the incredible people from all walks of life that we have the honor of meeting and sharing the stories of, I think about the amazing partnerships with groups and organizations that want to bring awareness, new perspective and hope to the people they know and serve… I think of the traveling adventures to document stories that range from sitting on a leather couch surrounded by gold statues inside a high-end home in the heart of a wealthy city, to trudging equipment through the woods in the heat of the summer to stand in a tent and hear the story of a man and his dog that have lived there, homeless for decades. I think of the lasting ripple effect that happens when someone opens their heart to share their story with the world, and how that creates this cycle of healing for the storyteller and the people all over the world reading it...

But if I had to narrow that down to just answer with what I love most about my job, what fuels the fire in my soul, what helps me to keep going, what reminds me the power, healing and importance of documenting & stories is...the thing I love most wouldn’t be what people may view as the adventurous, exciting things I just mentioned...I would tell you that nothing beats watching someone’s face change, watching the light in their eyes brighten the moment they realize that they matter. That moment changes everything.

Larissa with our friends Aaron, William, Caitilin and Hailey

Larissa with our friends Aaron, William, Caitilin and Hailey

If you’ve followed 7 Billion Ones, Randy or myself for a bit, you know that our homeless friends come into the studio where we work every day (many of them are storytellers in ‘The Road I Call Home’ exhibit featuring the portraits and stories of people that have experienced homelessness, or are currently homeless), sometimes to just visit and catch up, to get away from the outside weather and elements, to rest and refuel and sit somewhere they aren’t kicked out of for simply existing; and then some days too, our friends bring in someone from their street family and friends that they want to share their story. Two Friday’s ago was a combination of those sweet reasons to stop into the studio, and for a few reasons we weren't expecting too… Our friend Caitilin, who shared her story last year as a part of The Road I Call Home, had sent us a message a few days prior, telling us that her boyfriend had committed suicide unexpectedly and she was of course devastated and really hurting. She asked if she could come see us, and so we planned to have her stop in that Friday. What we didn’t plan for, was meeting, photographing and documenting the stories of some of her street family.  

Caitilin walked into our gallery and told us about her boyfriend’s funeral, and how she was happy to have the support and love of his family and her street family - who she wanted to introduce us to. It broke our hearts to see Caitilin in so much pain and her eyes tear-filled from the sleepless nights and heartache. We shook the hands of Aaron, Hailey and William and they each set their backpacks down and talked over coffee and tears. Randy (Founder & Head Photographer for 7 Billion Ones) and I asked if they wanted to take a family photo since they were all together, and a series of beautiful and deeply personal family & individual photos later - they were each laughing, reminiscing on good times, poking fun with each other, holding hands, crying. They started off a bit like most people do when you shine a large spotlight on them and ask them personal questions - a bit nervous...stiff and reserved. Then there was that magic moment...the moment that I crave to experience again and again, knowing the lasting impact it has on people...we saw each of them become at ease, comfortable in their own skin...we saw them toss aside trying to “pose” or look any certain way...they stopped trying to adjust their clothes and posture, they spoke from their hearts, they let go...they felt free to be themselves, now knowing that they were in a safe space, reminded that they are important and that are loved.

That’s the power of love. Love changes everything.

Randy behind the scenes (street friends) shoot (1)
Story sharing (Hailey & WIlliam) behind the scenes

Hailey and William (boyfriend & girlfriend) then decided that they’d like to tell their story together, and we set off to record it. I then heard and experienced them laying it out there, as each of them shared about their lives...I saw them being real, raw and honest, and hopeful for their futures, despite their circumstances or the troubles they’ve faced. Before everyone left, there were lots more hugs, tears and laughter, and as we thanked each of them for choosing to share their story and be a part of this movement, each of them hugged and thanked us sincerely for making their sad day brighter...not yet seeing that they brightened our day all the more.

There is such a sense of community, of family, of real hope, and desire to make a difference amongst our friends on the streets...they remind us constantly what is important in life, that we have so much to be thankful for, and that you can have nothing in the eyes of the world, but can still be truly filled with all that you need (love, hope, faith, family). We are honored to be in the lives of every individual that chooses to share their story with 7 Billion Ones, and we truly believe that when you not only validate someone’s existence as important, but remind them that they already have the power to change the world...big things happen, hope and healing spreads, and lives are changed.

When people are considering sharing their story with us, it is so important that we create a safe space and an inclusive culture where storytellers not only feel like they won’t be judged for their past or present, will be accepted unconditionally and seen as they truly are with no strings attached, but that they leave feeling empowered, important, loved and worthy. They become part of the 7 Billion Ones family and we hope that they invite others to join in, too.


Randy+Street Friends (1)

Hailey and William’s story will be a part of ‘The Road I Call Home’ project and featured on 7 Billion Ones in the future, as well as a 2nd chapter of Caitilin’s story that she is sharing in hopes to help heal, and to pay tribute to the life of her boyfriend. We are happy and honored to know each of you, dear friends. Let's keep shaking up the world together.

Cara "The Opposite of Fail"

Written by Larissa

Cara and her 2 kids Cameron and Zeke shared part of their story on 7 Billion Ones recently, and their lives were impacted by the feedback from sharing their story, the portrait images from their photo shoot, and the love and encouragement from the 7 Billion Ones community in response. We have experienced how empowering it is when you share your life with people through storytelling and photography... the way it creates this lasting ripple effect in your own life, the people in your community, and people on the other side of the world. Here are some of Cara’s words following her photo shoot...

“There’s some days when I go through what I call a “relapse”. And I bet a lot of domestic violence survivors go through something similar. I just can’t handle life outside of my home. People send me into feels heavier and more raw than a normal day.

And on that Saturday, when you sent me the images from our photo shoot...I was having one of the worst relapse days I’d had in YEARS. My daughter made everyone’s meals. She did our laundry. She handled her brother. I just failed at everything that day. Then I woke up. And I got these pictures. And every single one of them showed me how incredible my kids are. And how beautiful. And strong. And how I did the opposite of fail when I had them.

So, thank you for what you did for me. And for them. Thank you SO much for those pictures. And for sending them at the exact right moment.”

Thulin Family-006.jpg

We are honored to have these 3 as an important part of this people-centered story movement and the 7 Billion Ones family. You can read Cameron & Zeke’s story here.

Cameron and Zeke spreading the movement and love in their 7 Billion Ones t-shirts.

Jennifer "An Indescribable Feeling"

Written by Larissa
Jennifer Miller-017-Edit.jpg

Jennifer knows the impact of sharing your story with the world, and has chosen to share hers so that she can help bring hope, healing, and encouragement to people suffering from an Acoustic Neuroma (a noncancerous tumor on the main nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain). She sent us her incredible story recently and then came in for her photo shoot. Following the honor we had of meeting and photographing Jennifer, she sent us a message that reminded us the importance of sharing your life and journey.

“7 Billion Ones is helping to give me a voice to help make a difference for all of those suffering from an Acoustic Neuroma...that is an indescribable feeling. What you guys are doing for people like me is truly amazing. Thank you again for making me feel so welcomed. I am so excited to see what is to come!” - Jennifer

Jennifer is the founder of ‘Team ANA 417’ a non-profit that exists to raise awareness in the local community for acoustic neuroma research, and "to inspire patients and their families, educate communities, and drive research to find answers for a rare brain tumor."


In Jennifer’s written story, she says, “I wouldn’t change what I went through now because I truly feel this is where I should be. That is why I want to share my story with others; my story is unique and I want others to see that a positive recovery is possible amongst those days when you feel the whole world is against you. I want to help in any way I possibly can, I feel as if it is my job to do so.”

We are inspired by Jennifer’s courage and mission to take what she has gone through, and to bring light to others through the power of storytelling. You can check out Jennifer’s full written story HERE.

"Hope Over Fear" -- Behind The Scenes

Written by Larissa
Image by Larissa

Image by Larissa

How do you get out of bed each day, go out into the world and believe that there is still hope, that God is still good, that life is still beautiful...when you’ve endured such great loss? Cindy still misses her boys every day, her love for them still strong...but she is choosing hope over fear and is determined to be a light for others who are struggling with loss and grief.

Cindy, we are in awe of the way you are honoring your boy’s lives and living as a beacon of hope for others.

During her shoot, Cindy’s story tugged at our hearts and brought tears to our heart ached, watching as she held tightly to each photo of her grown sons in each arm that have since passed away, just as she must have once held each of them in her arms when they were only babies.

Cindy is taking the brave and healing step in sharing her story, so that she can be a part of bringing hope and healing to people who are also hurting, to people who have lost loved ones...bringing hope and healing to herself in the process too. We are honored to welcome Cindy into the 7 Billion Ones family, and honored to share Cindy’s story on 7 Billion Ones, coming soon.

Hudson Hawk Barber & Shop - 'Humans Not Statistics'

Written by Larissa
Founder Randy Bacon

Founder Randy Bacon

We are beyond excited and honored to be partnering with Founders Paul Catlett and Thad Forrester of Hudson Hawk Barber & Shop, to present portrait images and stories in their multiple shop locations in 2018! They see and believe in the mission and impact of what we do at 7 Billion Ones, and with such compassionate hearts that are on fire for people, we know together we can be a part of something bigger than ourselves. 

Co-founder Paul says, “After reading the stories along with the intense imagery, not being a part of 7 Billion Ones wasn’t a option. By having these faces and stories in our Barber Shops, we hope that every person that walks through our door is positively impacted from this exhibit. My hope is that we can start looking at all people as humans and not statistics.

These two portraits featured above of our dear friends Kevin & Donnis are the first selected and we are so overjoyed to present many more portraits and stories of people from all walks of life, in an in-house exhibit at all Hudson Hawk locations coming soon! We love partnering with people that want to use their passion and specialities to change the world and the people they serve...we are so looking forward to the way these images and stories affect every person that enters a Hudson Hawk shop!


Words from Co-Founder, Paul Catlett:

Paul Catlett with his son (Photo courtesy of Hudson Hawk Barber and Shop)

Paul Catlett with his son (Photo courtesy of Hudson Hawk Barber and Shop)

There isn’t a better feeling than looking in the mirror and seeing a better version of yourself. After 30 minutes with your barber for a cut and a conversation, this is the result. This experience is something that we must not take for granted, or think that every individual in our society feels that. This is a luxury that so many homeless and less privileged never get to experience. Let’s choose not to overlook these amazing beings, and reach out our hands and eyes to them and view them as real people, no different than ourselves.

7 Billion Ones is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bringing awareness to so many marginalized groups and individuals (including the staggering number of homeless and less fortunate). After reading the stories along with the intense imagery, not being a part of this wasn’t a option. By having these faces and stories in our Barber Shops, we hope that every person that walks through our door is positively impacted from this collection. My hope is that we can start looking at all people as humans and not statistics.

"Simple Blessings"

"Portrait of Two Buddies”  

"Portrait of Two Buddies”

A short story from our Founder & Photographer, Randy Bacon:

I can proudly say that Kevin and I have been good buddies now for over eight years. Yet with life, it is way too easy to get caught up in all of the 'to do' list items (especially this time of the year) and then you miss out on simple blessings of the day. I was at the studio last Friday frantically working away at crossing off one task after another and then I heard the doorbell - in walked Kevin, which I had not seen in quite sometime. My first inclination (considering the myriad of things to do) was to merely say hello and get back to the grind, but I heard that small, powerful voice in my heart say, "Slow down and relish these moments". So Kevin and I ate some fried chicken together for lunch and visited about life. We talked about memories, relationships, dreams, keys to living a full life and many more topics. I am glad I listened to my heart and simply stopped for awhile. It revealed to me what is really important about life - it is people you love and sharing life together. Thanks Kevin.

More on Kevin:

Kevin and Petra's Story "(I will not)Abandon You" --- Short Film

What Is Kevin Up To These Days?

Kevin and Petra "Judgement" -- Short Film

"We Will Forever Be Grateful"

Founder Randy Bacon

Founder Randy Bacon

Last week at the studio, we received a card overflowing with love and encouraging words that absolutely just punched us in the heart and left us wrecked. I was able to meet this wonderful family recently in Kansas City during their photoshoot as a part of sharing their story through 7 Billion Ones. When we start to feel the pressure and heartbreak that can occur when being a part of such an impactful movement, or things get busy and we start to lose focus on the core of who we are and what we do, a reminder as loving as Kelly’s letter is exactly what refuels our hearts and reminds us the power of sharing stories and bringing hope to people all over the world. YOU (the readers, storytellers & fans alike) are the heartbeat of this movement, and YOU help us create that change and cycle of healing in the world. Thank you Kelly for expressing the impact of story sharing and how it changes you. <3

“Dear Randy, Thank you so much for inviting my family to be a part of your 7 Billion Ones stories. It was healing for both Aaron and I to put our short version on paper and spend time reflecting on how far we have come. Your vision with this project is something I support with my whole being… it is something I taught relentlessly to my young students, hoping they would make a positive change in the world by noticing, acknowledging and listening to others’ stories. Your team was simple amazing with out family. You all put us to ease and showed great patience and grace. We are so honored and humbled to be a part of such a brilliant project. We will forever be grateful." 




"If You Knew Their Whole Story" by Larissa


This 'backstory' is the third of three you will find about the experience of going to homeless camps and the mental and emotional effects this had on the writers. The words come from Amy, Larissa and Dawn who joined me as we filmed three different locations and met the wonderful people who call these camps 'home'.  We now consider them as our homeless friends. 

(Introduction by Randy Bacon)

7 billion ones, randy bacon, homeless, homelessness, compassion

Homeless Outreach is my core passion and a big part of what I am blessed to get to do every day. It is something you can be a part of all day every day and still never stop growing from your experiences of meeting people, hearing their stories, investing in their lives and doing what you can to make a difference. Whenever I drop any of my homeless friends off at their tent’s, I always leave wishing I didn’t have to leave them there. That I could take them to my home and that they weren’t spending their night on the cold wet ground. I knew God was going to use this experience of walking through camp sites to wreck my world in the best way, and what I experienced was nothing short of just that.

My friend D shared with us his love for beautiful stones, exploring, and telling stories. He sat just outside his tent and showed us his precious collection of rocks and stones and told us how each one was unique and beautiful. Let me tell you that D is a unique and beautiful person himself and his smile as he handed me one of his treasures to keep was priceless.

"Biker D" being filmed by Randy Bacon (filmmaker and co-founder of 7 Billion Ones)

"Biker D" being filmed by Randy Bacon (filmmaker and co-founder of 7 Billion Ones)

We talked with the sweetest young couple who did nothing but crack jokes with us and each other, hug the other and remind us of the little things in life we take for granted. The world may view them as having little, but you could see in the way they held each other, that they understand the things and people in life that really matter most. I am thankful for their beautiful reminder that if you have love in your life, you are richer than anything money could ever buy.

My longtime friend Michael took us to his incredibly engineered camp site where he shared his life hacks and brilliant survival skills to keep his tent and surrounding area in top shape. It warmed my heart as we were walking away from his camp site, & I turned to see Michael pick up a small twig and precisely lean it against what is fashioned as his doorway to his home area. He takes so much care in what he calls home. Michael is one of the smartest people I know.

7 billion ones, randy bacon, homeless, homelessness, compassion

It’s hard to describe the mixture of feelings and emotions I had looking around their campsites, with dozens of cans, worn out clothing, torn up mattresses covered in leaves and duct taped tents. It was one thing to spend time with my friends during the day and evening at various events and locations, but it was something else entirely when I finally walked through piles of forgotten items and endless amounts of brush, thorns & dirt to get to where they lay their heads every night. For these people who live without a roof over their head, it was a huge vote of trust and hospitality for them (some previously strangers to us) to allow us into their living areas to film, take photos and speak with them, trusting that we would not disclose their location. I can’t imagine what it feels like to know that you could come back one day to find that all your belongings were stolen, your tent burnt to the grown, and the area you were staying in is off limits and you have to leave with nothing and no money to stay anywhere. This is a heartbreaking reality for so many of our friends who then have to start over time after time. It really hit me hard, the reality of conditions that my friends live in day after day, snow or high temperatures. I will never forget the things we saw, the genuine people we met, and the impact that those campsites, and my friends, have on my life and this world every day.

Words of wisdom from Larissa

I want people to know that homelessness can happen to ANYONE and that there is so much more to every person’s story, how they got to where they are, what they may be struggling with, and what they can offer as a human being. I have never stopped learning from the lives they live and God is consistently wrecking my world views with each new friend I make that lives on the street. “Homeless” should not define who they are. The group of people I have been honored to meet over the past few years who just happen to live on the streets, are some of the most caring, selfless, unconditionally loving individuals you’ll ever meet, who would (and sometimes do) give everything they have to help another person with no strings attached…. that is how we are supposed to live our lives!!
Tommy with Larissa

Tommy with Larissa

Larissa with Wulf

Larissa with Wulf

One of the most common things I hear from my friends on the streets, is that on the days when they are at their lowest, if someone just simply smiles and says “Hello” when they pass by, it reminds them that there are caring people in this world and that they matter enough for someone to notice. They want to be recognized as valued individuals because they ARE valuable individuals. Compassion is always inconvenient and that’s the beauty of it. PEOPLE are what Latter and we need to look up from our own little world, say hello to strangers, hug someone who may not appear to be friendly or clean, and take a moment to focus on others no matter how busy you are or what kind of day you’re having. Know that everyone has a story and there is so much more depth to a person that where they live or how the look.

“If you knew their whole story, there isn’t a person in this world you wouldn’t love.” - Unknown


"A Potluck of Emotions" - My Homeless Camp Experience by Dawn


This 'backstory' is the second of three you will find about the experience of going to homeless camps and the mental and emotional effects this had on the writers. The words come from Amy, Larissa and Dawn who joined me as we filmed three different locations and met the wonderful people who call these camps 'home'.  We now consider them as our homeless friends. 

(Introduction by Randy Bacon)

Dawn with Jakki at her homeless camp

Dawn with Jakki at her homeless camp

The day finally arrived.  The day I would visit my first homeless camp.  As a production assistant on a film crew creating a short film of our homeless neighbors, a potluck of emotions were brewing as we approached the entrance of the first camp.  Feelings of excitement, nervousness, scared, sadness, being humbled, and happy… Happy?  Why would I be 'happy' to visit a camp of homeless people? To see their sadness and misfortune?  I was happy that these people trusted us to come into their space.  Their space that is typically private and secret to those on the outside.  They let us come in.  I walked into their neighborhood as a stranger and walked away with new friends.

I saw ultimate survival mode.  Doing whatever it takes to make it through one more night.  I am not sure I can formulate the words to describe what I saw and felt.



Jakki emerged from her tent to talk with Randy (filmmaker and co-founder of 7 Billion Ones). When I saw her, I didn't initially recognize her. Jakki's story and portrait are actually part of the exhibit, 'The Road I Call Home, and I have gazed upon her photograph that Randy took and hangs in his gallery.  On this day, however, she looked like a coal miner.  Why? Why are her hands and face as black as a coal miner coming up from the mine shaft? She is using warming candles and burning cardboard in  her tent to stay warm.  If her skin is covered with soot, what damage is she doing internally?  She is coughing, congested and sick.  She has no medicine to relieve her headache and help her sleep.  She is hungry, hasn't had substance in a few days. She wants a cheeseburger, Randy promises her one that night.  She can't remember her last cheeseburger.  She  just wants to take a shower.  A shower to clean her skin of the black soot.   

She appears broken, with no hope for her future.  This is not the Jakki that is on display at the gallery.  I walked away from Jakki's area of camp not able to comprehend what I just saw and heard.  When I need medicine, food or medical care, I just go.  When I feel dirty, I go take a shower without a second thought.  Maybe 2 or 3 in a day.  It never crosses my mind that these luxuries are just that… luxuries.  Most of us just go and do or get whatever we want or need without second thoughts.

Biker D at his campsite

Biker D at his campsite

Next stop is D… what can I say about D???  At first I was leery… BUT WOW… he was funny, conversationalist, smiling, finding the positives in his current situation and making me laugh. He searches for quartz, rocks and gems as a challenge and to help pass the time.  I loved that he spent so much time sharing those adventures with us.  It was time to wrap up here and go to another camp. It was so hard to end this conversation with him. But as we did, D shared a rock with each of us - an unlikely  I am truly thankful for that rock… I purposely left it in my coat pocket as a constant reminder.

Every time I feel that rock in my pocket, I will be reminded to be kind, giving, compassionate, accepting and show love towards others.  Just as we were shown by those who were less fortunate . While D is in a less than optimal situation, he was generous and kind by sharing those rocks with each of us.  I will also be reminded of their strength and drive to survive.   I will be reminded to appreciate all that I have and not take it for granted.  Yes, that rock cost zero dollars, but truly one of the best gifts I have ever received.  



After leaving this community camp, Michael invited us to his camp.  He doesn't live in a community camp.  He lives 'on his own' and prefers it that way.  He has been in this location for 2 years and 9 months.  Apparently, that is a long time to be in one location.  I was impressed with his location, the tidiness of it and the fact that he knows how  high the water can get when it rains.  His tent is setup to allow for rising waters AND he has stepping stones so that his feet do not get drenched while entering his tent.  The thought that they have to put into EVERYTHING they do is amazing.  Again, the things that we would not even consider, they are so many steps ahead.  So much strategy and forward thinking to survive the elements and unfortunately, to survive people.

Ursula and David are Michael's neighbors several yards away.  Their camp was similar to the first camp in regards to the 'stuff' laying around.  Everyone else's leftovers.  They are alone in this camp and trying to clean it up.  They are  a young couple… too young to be homeless. They showed us how their tent does not zip completely.  Which explained the excess of tarps covering it.  The naïve person I am would think that is okay and keeps them protected.  No… on cold nights, ice crystals form on their blankets.  Big deal right?  Once those thaw, the blankets become wet and useless the next night if they aren't able to dry them out.  God, once again, showed me that I take so much for granted.

Ursala and David

Ursala and David

I still haven't fully processed what I saw and the stirrings inside of me.  I did walk away from these camps a much different person than when I entered.  Selfishly, my homeless friends are helping me in my own personal life in ways that continue to unfold. By meeting and getting to know these individuals and really hearing their stories, it is helping me to look at life with fresh, more loving eyes for all people.  I will make sure that each person I meet and haven't met yet, know just how special they are.  Even in their darkest hours.  We all deserve that… no one wants to be defined by their worst moments.

As I finish writing thoughts about my first visit to a homeless camp, I am still holding that small, black rock that D gave me.  To many it may mean nothing, but to me it is almost priceless. I am so thankful for the rock that D gave me. Maybe we should all carry a rock as a reminder that kindness will cost you nothing.


"My (homeless) Camp Experience" - Story by AMY


This 'backstory' is part one of three you will find about the experience of going to homeless camps and the mental and emotional effects this had on the writers. The words come from Amy, Larissa and Dawn who joined me as we filmed three different locations and met the wonderful people who call these camps 'home'.  We now consider them as our homeless friends. 

(Introduction by Randy Bacon)

7 billion ones, amy bunselmeyer, randy bacon, homeless camp, homeless, homelessness

I am passionate about 7 Billion Ones and am part of their advocacy group, "The Billionaire's Club". As a club member, Randy presented a unique opportunity to me and a few others. He was shooting a short film for a nonprofit, Gathering Tree, and he asked if I wanted to come along and assist with the filming. The very unique part of this request is that we would be filming our homeless friends in their camps - to be allowed into their camps and to film is quite an honor.  I instantly replied, "YES"!

The night before we were to go on our video shoot of the local homeless camps, I found myself stressing over what I was going to wear. We would be walking around outside for three or four hours to film and the high was only supposed to be in the low 30s. The irony of my worry hit me pretty hard. I was stressed over the thought of spending a few hours outside in the cold when I was going to be visiting the camps where my homeless friends stay almost every night, no matter the weather.


There’s not a whole lot you can do to prepare yourself for an experience like this, beyond trying to decide what to wear. I’d been seeing my homeless friends several times a week for a while now without having a real picture of what they went back to at night. I had a general idea of what to expect but seeing it with your own eyes is something different entirely. I’ve lived almost my entire life here in Springfield, but as I walked down the railroad tracks talking with our homeless friend Michael, I felt like I was in another city. The camps were in a part of town I’d never been to, hidden in a forested area I’d never seen. Walking through them, I felt like I was a world away, even though it was just a short drive across town from the house where I grew up.

It’s hard to put into words what these camps were like. The tents were scattered around, the area between them cluttered with blankets, bicycles, empty containers, trash. It’s hard to imagine anyone spending time there, let alone living there. Even still, as we walked through them some of the camp residents were eager to show us their belongings, their homes. Others wanted to straighten up a bit before allowing us to look in, the same way I do whenever I have people over. In one camp, a toy dinosaur hung from a tree branch with a walnut in its mouth. It was a little silly maybe, but it was just a little bit of character, a tiny glimpse into the sense of humor of these people who are so often overlooked.

Amy with Michael

Amy with Michael

Seeing Michael’s camp hit me the hardest, probably because I’ve come to know him so well over the past few months. It was exactly how I had imagined it would be—pristine and perfectly designed. He had truly made this place his home, in a way I never could have understood without seeing it. Two years and nine months he’d been living there—he’d told me in one of the first conversations I ever had with him that he’d been able to stay in the same place for so long in part because it was such a well-kept secret.

Randy filming Michael

Randy filming Michael

Friday is a day I am going to think about for the rest of my life. It is almost impossible for someone as privileged as I am to understand and believe that people in our community are living out there in the cold, doing the best they can to survive. And yet I saw it with my own eyes; they are my friends. And perhaps the biggest thing I took away from that day was the fact that I was so incredibly honored to have been allowed inside their camps, especially Michael’s. For so many of our homeless friends, showing people where they live means risking their camps being torn down, their belongings stolen, scattered, and destroyed. I can’t imagine going about my day having to wonder that all my belongings might be gone when I come home at night. They trusted us with the knowledge of their homes in the hope that sharing their reality might make a difference. I intend to do everything I can to make sure that it does.

7 billion ones, amy bunselmeyer, randy bacon, homeless camp, homeless, homelessness



The Story of "Hello Kitty"

At 7 Billion Ones, we have a special group of 'on fire', passionate volunteer advocates that help us with many aspects of the movement's operation and needs.  We call them 'The Billionaire's Club'.

Winter is here, so a few days ago we made a simple 'call out' for help for some of our homeless friends that desperately needed tents and blankets to survive the frigid temperatures we have been experiencing. Within minutes of posting the request, we had several offers from club members to supply tents and blankets.

Kim with her children, Pete and Lily

Kim with her children, Pete and Lily

This is where the story gets more interesting. I was working at our gallery and I heard the door bell ring and I saw Kim Mathis, a 'Billionaire Club' member, walking in with many blankets in tow to donate.  She was scheduled to come in however I didn't expect who she brought with her. At Kim's side were her two adorable children, Pete and Lily. Kim told me that when her kids found out about the homeless being cold and needing blankets to stay warm, Pete and Lily were moved to action. They said, "Mom we want to help too."  So Pete goes to his room and picks out two of his favorite bedroom blankets.  Then Lily gave to her mom her most cherished, absolute favorite blanket.  Lily wanted to give away her Hello Kitty blanket. Both kids wanted the homeless to have their own personal blankets - to help the homeless and to show them they are loved.

I was so incredibly touched and inspired by Kim, Pete and Lily's kindness for our homeless friends.  I took a few photos of these 3 heroes. We visited a little bit, we hugged, they gave me the blankets and they left to go home.

So what happened to the blankets? Just 2 hours after Kim left, I headed out to deliver the blankets.  As I was driving, I saw a young homeless man walking down the street by himself. I actually thought I knew him and so I yelled out the window, "Hey Matt, I have something for you." The homeless man did not respond. I called out again, "Matt, it's Randy, I have something for you!"  The homeless man ignored me and kept walking down the street.

This required a stronger action, so I whipped the car around and came up beside him.  It was then I realized, I made a mistake and it wasn't Matt.  I actually I never have met this man before. However, I asked him, "Do you need a blanket to help stay warm." He walked over to the car, his face showing more hope and life in it.  He said, "I could really use a blanket.  Thank you."  So I handed him a heavy one but then he noticed the 'Hello Kitty' blanket sitting right on top of the stack in the backseat of my car.  

The man really surprised me with his next words.  He said, "Can I have the Hello Kitty blanket too?"  My first thought was that this was a strange request for a grown man to be asking.  He continued, "My wife has a young daughter.  Her name is Livy. She has always wanted a Hello Kitty blanket, but we have never been able to buy her one.  Can I have the blanket to give to her?"

My heart just about blew out of my chest. This was a 'Godcidence' for sure.  Lily's simple act of love and kindness to give away her favorite blanket effected somebody in a major way that could never have been anticipated. This little girl, Livy, who I will probably never meet is now staying warmer with her new cherished, absolute favorite Hello Kitty blanket. That is what love is all about. Love changes lives in ways we can never imagine.

"What is Kevin Up To These Days?"

I have known Kevin for over six years. During this time, we shot two short films on his life, shared many portraits of him and his ongoing story. With this exposure, people now ask me quite often, "What is Kevin up to these days? How's he doing?"

7 billion ones, randy bacon, homeless, homelessness, the road I call home, gathering friends for the homeless

Well, Kevin came in a couple days ago and we had a great visit. It made me think, I have seen a whole lot happen in his life, but this year has been a huge one. 

Beginning 2016, he was still struggling with being homeless. Then on Tuesday, January 26 at 7:30 PM his life was forever altered. Petra, the love of his life, was tragically killed after being hit by a truck as the two of them crossed the street. Kevin was at her side at the accident and at the hospital until she passed away four days later. I shared in his grief and saw him deal with this terrible loss. We actually had Petra's memorial at our gallery.

Then finally some good news. He was accepted for assisted living and officially moved into his own apartment in March and he has been off the streets every since. Throughout this year, I began to see Kevin blossom and grow with a new determination to improve his life. He started doing odd jobs, including several for us. He was staying out of trouble and really handling life's responsibilities much better.

When we announced our big special project on the homeless, The Road I Call Home, Kevin was first in line to be photographed, filmed and to share his story of struggle and hope. The image you see behind him is the portrait of Kevin we are featuring in the art exhibition.

Our opening reception and exhibition for The Road I Call Home was on October 5 (special VIP for the homeless) and October 7 for the public. On both days, he helped us all day long get everything set up and ready for the openings...and he wouldn't take a dollar for his efforts. Then a magical moment. During the public opening reception, a man who saw Kevin's portrait in the exhibition approached him as he sat in our gallery. They talked for a while and then the gentleman asked, "Kevin, do you need a job? If so, come to my company on Monday morning and fill out an application. We may have an opportunity for you."

Monday rolled around and Kevin hopped on his bike and road 10 miles to the business to fill out the application. The company hired Kevin and he started on that next Friday! He has been working there every since then.

Kevin is now getting his driver's license renewed (he passed the written already..he is quite proud of this), he is starting to save a little money, he shaved his beard (now if he'll just get his hair cut, haha), and he is hoping to be able to buy a truck someday. Kevin also told me how much better this job is making him feel. He feels more important and that he is now getting to the point where he can start giving back to society. He even mentioned that maybe he can see his dream fulfilled soon. And what is his dream? His dream is to work with youth that are homeless to help get them off the streets.

Kevin ended our visit with a nice surprise. He asked me, "So, can I take you to lunch on Saturday? It will be my treat to you. I would really like to do that." You bet I am going!

My New Homeless Friend

As part of the 7 Billion One's team, Michelle Jackson plays a vital role in the growth and success of the movement, including the completion of an incredible project "The Road I Call Home" which presents the stories, lives and portraits of 70 to 100 homeless people.  "The Road I Call Home", which is set to be unveiled in September 2016, will boldly and clearly show that as a homeless person that they truly matter, are important and have stories that count. 7 Billion Ones is doing this project in conjunction with a nonprofit, Gathering Friends, which day-in-and-day-out are on the streets helping the homeless. Michelle (and all of us) are being forever changed by the experience of meeting these wonderful people that just happen to call the road their home. Here's her words.

"Cave" and Michelle

"Cave" and Michelle

"So, I openly admit I was taken aback when I first saw Donnis, known on the street as Cave - he is a mountain of a man with battle scars from his life on and off the streets. And then he told the funniest story ever within seconds of meeting him, and I was on board.  What I didn’t know then was that Cave’s goal is to make you smile… so you won’t forget him.  It felt like many people had forgotten or overlooked Cave over the course of his life.  During the photo shoot, while telling his story, he would vacillate between laughter and near-tears.  And so did I… okay, no “near tears”, just “for-real-rolling-down-my-face-tears”.  At the end of the official shoot, I was invited to take a picture with Cave, and I gladly accepted. He grabbed me into a huge bear hug immediately - one of those that you feel deep down in your soul. You know, the really real ones that come from an incredibly honest, vulnerable place.  The kind you feel for days after it’s gone. It’s funny how sometimes your mind opening kind of feels like your heart breaking… I cherish that moment in time I shared with Cave, and will remember it always."


"The Magic Catch Lights that Reveal the Soul"

Christian is a beautiful, dark haired young woman with translucent skin. I will always remember the day she walked into our studio -- shy, quiet and a little nervous, but I could feel the strength in her opulent, unsure eyes. Christian is very poised, elegant and lovely on the outside, so you would not initially see her as someone who, at one point, admitted herself to a mental institution. In part, this is a little bit of what 7 Billion Ones and telling your story is about: shedding our rough outside layers to match the fragile ones that lay within us and being more than okay with it.

I am the "lighting assistant" during our photo shoots, and part of what I do is help Randy get those magic "catch lights" in the person's eyes so we can look into their souls, so to speak. As I adjusted the light just right on Christian's eyes, I noticed the tears; they began as small glistening diamond specks and then began to softly roll down her cheeks. I couldn't help but want to just give her a big bear hug, because I remembered my own personal battle with depression, and was a living hell.

Christian said telling her story took a lot of strength and she was at first hesitant as she didn't want people to think she was telling if for "fame or attention." After all, it took her two-years to write it down for herself.  Her goal is to truly help people through her pain, yet little did she know how she herself would be changed.

Randy and I sometimes ask ourselves why we "do" our non-profit, 7 Billion Ones, and we always get an answer from...somewhere, someone, including this email after our shoot, from Christian herself.

"The day in your studio(for my 7 Billion Ones photo shoot), was a day I will never forget.  Until then,  I thought "God has healed me.  It's over and now I can just detach myself as I  talk about who I was."  Spending time with Randy and going through those thought processes opened back up what, I had told myself, was finished.  I became vulnerable again.
Oh, how good this journey has been! Through prayer, reading Scripture and talking with those I trust, I realize I had allowed myself to become detached from my story.  I looked at my past self in third person instead of acknowledging where I had been, where God has brought me, and where He is taking me.  I desire to be vulnerable so others can see that God stepped in when there was no other hope.
As I allow God to continue to use me in whichever way He may choose, I will be grateful for that day I spent with you.  This was a monumental step in my healing journey. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me remember, with fresh eyes, what God has done for me.  Even writing this now, my words don't compare to the amount of gratitude I have.  Thank you for helping me to see I am one in 7 billion. ---- Love,  Christian"