A Tribute To Petra, 1962 - 2016; "Rest In Glorious Peace"

Petra, Hensler, Kevin, Drake, 7, billion, ones, randy, bacon, photography

Written by Shannon Bacon

Several years ago, Kevin and Petra came into our lives and we developed quite the unexpected, special rapport. Our relationship started with them dropping in for bathroom and coffee stops, but then took a beautiful turn into a true friendship. Then, as they began to trust Randy and I, Kevin and Petra dropped by the studio, sometimes daily. Most of the time they just needed someone to talk to about the day-to-day struggles of living homeless, but the conversations became much deeper. Petra began to open up to me, which was rare because Kevin said "she doesn't like other women, you're the first one." I was humbled, for sure, but mainly happy to be a friend to her, not to change her.

With her cute sideways grin, mouth shut always because she hated the way she looked without teeth, Petra began to talk fondly about her childhood. She had a son and family, and proudly showed us photos she kept crumbled up in her little purse. She would drink too much and look at me and cry because she didn't want to go back home to Las Vegas -  she didn't want her family to see what the drug abuse and streets had done to her.

She spoke of her relationship with Kevin, "the love of her life', and we talked about the ups and downs of "men". She was so surprised when I told her I was no different, that Randy and I argue and struggle at times, just like her and Kevin. We talked about menopause, nail polish,(she loved to keep her nails painted), hairstyles and fashion. With a sparkle in her eyes, she told us of her love for flying kites and bowling.

Kevin, Drake, Petra, Hensler, 7, Billion, Ones, Randy, Bacon, Photography, homeless

Kevin and Petra would break up, get back together and then break up again, many times, but their deep, true love was always apparent. She was a pure soul many never saw because, in part, she was "homeless", but also many couldn't get past her sometimes drunken behavior. Petra told me she beat her meth addiction of the past, but she just couldn't fight the demon alcohol became for her. Believe me, she tried. Hospitals, and rehab only helped put a temporary band-aid on the problem. One week she would come in shy, meek and sober, embarrassed to ask me to help her fill out her Medicare paperwork. The next week, she would be drunk and loud, cursing the world...but, really just needing someone to be present, to look her into her pain-filled eyes. Like most of us, we want someone who cares and doesn't judge. I would just give her a hug, listen, and everytime she would leave our studio I would hug her and say, "Listen sassy, you stay out of trouble, you promise?" She would grin at me and tell me, "I love you." That was the last thing I said to her before she died a week later.

I remember one time when a young homeless guy came into the studio needing bus fare. Of course, I never have cash, so Petra heard us talking and offered her own money. She winked at me and said, "I have a little extra money I didn't tell Kevin about, so I can help him." She giggled and said, "A girl has to keep a little money for herself, for my nail polish and crap."

The odd jobs we gave Kevin and Petra didn't provide enough for them to get off the streets, but Kevin finally got a couple of jobs last month. They saved enough to get an apartment on Commercial Street.  She was so excited and loved our "house warming gift", a little radio/CD player we kept at the studio. She had a soft spot for music. She would tell me happily, "We listen to music all day!" She was so thrilled to finally start over. Her helping heart then took in a young, homeless couple Petra and Kevin felt sorry for. They were forced to leave the apartment when the couple started cooking meth. She told me, "We just can't get involved in that crap, and we don't want anything to do with it." They packed up immediately and left everything behind and were back on the streets again.

We would give her clothes and shoes, and she would show up without them the next time she would visit. I would ask her what happened to them and she would tell me she gave them to someone else that needed them more than her. This was just a little of the Petra Randy and I knew.

Last night I watched the sacred, rich moments of light right before the resplendent sun set into rainbow colors, and I just felt Petra was in heaven.  I saw her healed, laughing and worry and pain free. Rest in glorious peace, Petra. Your life has just begun.

"Don't Forget to Act Like a Child"

7 Billion Ones Randy Bacon Photography

(Backstory By Shannon Bacon)

Last week, we finished an unforgettable photoshoot with Madi and her brother, Blake. We will post their poignant story soon in January...it is so special! After the shoot, a thought kept going through my head - "why do we stop seeing the world through the eyes of a child? When did we get so serious about everything?" Writer Chee Vai Tang says, "If we could see the world through the eyes of children, we would see the magic in everything."

I'm almost 49-years-old but am often told I still act like a "big kid", which is a compliment. I like to have fun, don't you? I've been told I'm like "a kid in a candy shop" - everywhere I go, I'm  visually in awe and have to stop and soak it all up. I have to smell the flowers, touch everything and walk slowly because, like a child on his first trip to a toy store, there is so much beauty to see in this world.

So meeting Blake reminded me to glimpse the world with new eyes, to give it a "double take." Doing so can make you feel renewed, and often the rediscovery can be better than the initial discovery itself. Blake hugged me 100 times, kissed my hand and we joked and talked about super villains (he celebrated his 32nd birthday with a Batman party!) I was so inspired to have my childhood "playmate" back. Blake is 32-years-old, but mentally he's about 8. He was born with a hole in his heart and epilepsy, along with other problems, on top of having an undiagnosed developmental delay, but is the happiest person I have ever met. Blake is a beautiful reminder to never stop looking at the world with childlike curiosity and passion for life and the unknown. Jump off the swing and play swat with super heroes, splash around in the rain puddles and skip down the grassy path in spring! Eat icecream for breakfast and do a crazy dance like there's no tomorrow in the middle of a store! Make lots of silly faces and sing at the top of your lungs to the radio in the car. Hug and laugh a lot and don't ever stop looking at the world with fresh eyes.

Be sure to look for Blake and Madi's story coming soon!


"Giving Is the Best Gift"

Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. We are bombarded with the message to buy, buy and buy, which is fun and good, but can easily cloud our vision to what the holidays and life are about --- living out each day giving love. With this in mind, what happens Tuesday? "Giving Tuesday" (#GivingTuesday) will be celebrated tomorrow as a global day of philanthropy dedicated to giving back --- a way to give love to the world. Giving Tuesday makes me ask: what gives your life significance? What can we do as individuals and as a community to give back, not only on Giving Tuesday, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but all year-round? It doesn't take much - a hug, a smile, or offering someone a hot meal goes a long way. Do you have time to give, listen, or help? It doesn't always mean money...it means love, time, patience and support.


I have found most of the joy in my life comes from giving back to others and keeping in check that what I do to make my living is second to living a life of significance. I used to measure my self-significance by my job, how busy and important I seemed and by how many items I could mark off of my to-do list. Now, I realize true joy comes from giving back. This is in part why we founded 7 Billion Ones (7B1's) in April, 2015. 7B1's is already reaching over 100,000 people per month, and we're just getting started! People are grabbing on to the power of our story movement, and lives are being changed!

Leading into our next phase, we are proud to announce that we are now a non-profit, founded on this simple mission: "7 Billion Ones exists to document and share stories to connect and empower people." Our vision is "to change the world through people and their stories."  

Amy Cancer Survivor

Amy Wallace is a great example as 23-years-ago the doctors told her she had three months to live. Yet now, Amy is alive and healthy and shared her story to help give hope to others. "I cannot say thank you enough to 7 Billion Ones! Sharing my story and being part of this movement has truly been an amazing gift to me.  I have always wanted to share my story but I really didn't understand fully the impact it could have. I hear from people daily, some I know and some I do not, about how moved they were by the story. I want to share more through your project. I want to be involved beyond my own story.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude!", says Amy. (If you missed Amy's story, click HERE.)

So, how can you give "love" to 7B1's?  Tell people about the movement and refer them to our website, www.7billionones.org. You can like, comment and follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and share these stories of hope and healing with family and friends. You can tell us YOUR story or refer a friend. If you can help the movement monetarily, click HERE to learn more about making your tax deductible donation, which will greatly help propel and support 7B1's. Every little bit helps and we cannot do this without you!  You are a gift to us.

Ready to make a donation today? Click above.

Ready to make a donation today? Click above.

"Beauty Grows Out of Darkness"

Abigail Depression You are not alone

I was assisting Randy during a recent photo shoot with Abigail. She walked in our studio, a little nervous and very sweet. During the shoot, Randy asked "Why do you want to tell your story, you could have easily taken the safe route and kept it all to yourself?" The many emotions that swept over Abigail's face combined with tears, gripped our heart-strings. Abigail said, "I am telling my story because I want people to not feel alone. I was an only child and I felt so alone when things happened to me. I want people to know that no matter the struggle you are dealing with, you are not alone; whether you are an only child like me or not, you can always talk to someone and you don't have to hide it away. Things like depression may be hidden, but it doesn't have to be - you don't have to carry the weight of that. And just because it is hidden, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. You don't have to feel bad about your depression or other issues. You don't have to pretend it is not there because you think it is ugly - it's there and it's real and it's actually beautiful. Depression is not ugly, it has helped me grow into me."

In essence, this is what 7 Billion Ones is about. By sharing your special story you are no longer bound to your secrets, you can be free. Often this is a first step for many to begin the healing process. Not only do you have the capacity to begin to heal (or finish), but the person receiving the story may as well.

Want to tell your story? Contact us via email and lets change lives together. 7billionones@randybacon.com

Look for Abigail's full story in December.


"A Bad Four Letter Word - FEAR"

When you think of bad four letter words, what do you think?  I am sure several words come to mind, but I bet the word "fear" did not make the list. Yet it may be one of the worst.

Think about it. How does fear affect your everyday life? It seems almost all obstacles we face in life will include a component of fear, which tag teams with those other evil words, worry and anxiety.  The end result is they can overwhelm us with a thick shadow of darkness, controlling our every move and decision.

There is so much crazy going on around us today - wars, conflicts, persecution, violence, crime, natural disasters, economic uncertainty, unemployment, divisions, disease, death.   We fear for our children’s future, we fear for our families, we fear for our financial future, we fear for our safety.  The list goes on…long! There actually is a lot we could potentially worry about and when you read almost every story on 7 Billion Ones, at some level an element of fear is interweaved in its core. Yet here's the silver lining.  Each and every person's special story is laced with important clues to defeating the "life taking" power of this bad four letter word. Fear not, because fear can be defeated in all instances!

Now as a world of over 7 Billion people, we are dealing with an unthinkable situation - the heart wrenching acts of terror by ISIS in Paris. It is easy, almost second nature as humans, whether you live in France or in Missouri, to let fear from an atrocity such as this, put a death grip on us; some us us even quit living on certain levels.  Countless humans now feel a sense of being debilitated, controlled, and hopeless - we frantically search to find that safe cocoon to hide.  Actually experts state that instilling fear is one of the prime objectives that terrorists want to achieve with their hate instilled acts.  Despite these terrible turn of events, it is even more reason for this world of over 7 billion to unite as the "ones" and defeat fear so we can truly live as God intended.  

So, what is the best defense against fear? The ammunition is called love and hope. This is where the real power is held. Life is nothing without these two, but is everything with them. As the "ones" in this world of over 7 billion, we are called to live as soldiers of love and hope, which will empower our own lives and truly help this hurting world heal, change and become more like that "Garden of Eden" that God planned from the beginning. In essence, this is what 7 Billion Ones is all about. -  By Randy Bacon

"Why we do 7 Billion Ones"


So why do we put so much time and effort into this movement called 7 Billion Ones (7B1's)? It's simple - we believe you matter and your story counts, even though our world presents the opposite at times. Everyone is so busy walking around judging, analyzing, looking at others with a "measurement" chart of who is the coolest, smartest, prettiest, funniest, etc. We compute people all day, scrambling over what we choose to say, how we say it. Are we impressing others? Is someone else impressing me? How do we look, what do we wear? Don't we usually love people the most when we get to know who they really are? 

With 7B1's, people have a chance to just say the heck with it...you can be "you" and help others with your unique journey. It's the sheer power of one story at a time that is changing our world. For example, this is the backstory on Fallon's Story "One Life To Live", which we featured recently. Fallon took the step and reached out to 7B1's with her story of dealing with major illnesses. We traveled to Kansas City and met her for the first time. When we saw Fallon in a coffee shop on the Plaza, we thought someone so beautiful and healthy looking couldn't possibly be so ill.  Fallon is model thin with perfect skin, amazing hair, and she is one of the smartest and most charming individuals we've met. Then her story poured out and moved us to tears. We have met a lot of inspirational people in our lives, but Fallon takes the prize.  

So what happened after we posted her story?  Fallon says, "I have gotten so much amazing feedback from my story! A lot of people are reaching out to me on my college campus who are dealing with "invisible illnesses." It has been incredible because I'm now using my story to help so many! I am so blessed to be part of 7 Billion Ones!"

Thank you to Fallon and the hundreds upon hundreds of others that are making a difference in this world through this movement. Your bravery to share your stories and love for other people clearly reminds us why we do this thing called 7 Billion Ones  - this is our life's passion and know the best is yet to come!

(story by Shannon and Randy)

Shannon and Petra "Unlikely Friends"


Petra took her first selfie today. She didn't even know what a selfie was. She had so much fun, she blushed and giggled like a little girl. She's homeless successfully fighting alcoholism and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Some people don't understand how we could be friends, like we wouldn't have anything in common. Yesterday we talked about fashion, she had a cute top on, and of course the dreaded menopause, because we both have gained 15 pounds and are going through "the change".  We talked about hair style and color - she wants me to trim hers soon and advised me the color is "all natural". She is excited to get teeth again soon...dentures. We both complained a bit about how stubborn men can be, and swapped stories. Back to the selfie...she looked at it and said, "I look pretty. Will you send that to my mom in Las Vegas. I haven't seen her for a long time but I want her to see me pretty again." I get reminders like this daily - don't we all just want to be understood, loved and appreciated?

- By Shannon Bacon


"Experience people Rather than Judge Them"



I was working on a story we have coming up on a unique, wonderful young lady - Lydia. Looking at this beautiful, emotional portrait of her reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend recently. The friend said, "There isn't a person in this world that you wouldn't love if you could read their story." So true, but why don't many of us take the time to do the homework, to understand the life stories of others? I wonder what would happen if much of the human population actually slowed down and put their own agenda on the shelf, even for a day? Wouldn't that possibly be world changing, if we just stopped and ...loved and encourage others? What would we find out about the pages people hide underneath their cover? Those pages some people don't want others to read because they feel they won't be understood, loved or they think they are the only one with issues.

Maybe we would appreciate, respect, admire, console, empathize and love others more if we made more effort to experience people rather than judge them from afar. I don't have all of the answers - none of us really do. I am confident that everyone deserves to be heard, understood, appreciated and loved - no matter what. Let's start reading the stories of others.

(scenario by Shannon Bacon)