Gary "Worth Something"

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Randy Bacon with 7 Billion Ones in partnership with National Alliance on Mental Illness Southwest Missouri (NAMI) are proud to announce a major, multifaceted portrait art exhibition, story and short film series:

It Knows No Face

Portraits of Suicide Survivors.

Learn more HERE

Gary’s Story:

Photography by    Randy Bacon

Photography by Randy Bacon

You really wanna know my story? Well, once upon a time in a place called Lancaster, Pennsylvania is where I was born and raised...on the playground is where I spent most of my days (Interviewer laughs, “Is that the fresh prince theme song?”). Yeah, okay I’m sorry, let’s try this again. Lancaster, Pennsylvania is my hometown. I came from there about four years ago, down to Arkansas, with a friend of mine. Now like they say you know, you can’t turn one of them into a housewife but I tried that. From Arkansas, then West Plains, Missouri. I was in West Plains and man I was doing good. Got my six dogs...then I ended up in the psych ward for suicide fifteen months ago. From there, they brought me here to Springfield, Missouri, but I had no ID so I became homeless. Fifteen months later, here I am still homeless.

As far as my childhood goes...first and foremost, Mother I miss you. Daddy I love you. It took me a while to understand that it was the tough love you gave me and I did hated y’all at one time...and then as I look back, I realize that you was doin' your job and you did well at it. I used to be bullied all the time and I used to run from people, I used to be shy, I used to walk alleyways instead of the streets, you know. I would try to stay hidden from society and that was all the way growing up. I’m fifty-eight years old now and I was that way up till I got here in Springfield. As a kid, I had never left my state, never experienced nothin'. Ah man, it was rough. Man, at the schools I went to, I was one of the few blacks in school, was always with the amish, went to a one-room schoolhouse. Especially back in the 70s, it was rough, you know what I mean? When you find out in the eighth grade that you’re black...I know that seems crazy, but that wasn’t taught in my family so we didn’t know until it was pointed out to us. We were raised to appreciate the rainbow. I’m a little blank about my childhood ‘cause I was left in the dark a lot. My mom was thirteen, my dad was fourteen when they had me. And then my mother wanted a girl so bad that she finally got her a daughter when I was four. The way my father said it, "She tried to make a girl outta me and it didn’t work."

Right now I’m struggling with being homeless. I’m struggling with just average people on the streets, ya know? Knowing where I’m gonna lay my head, gettin' up in the morning, wondering where my next meal gonna come from. The struggles of homelessness...dealing with the suicide issue...I felt left alone in the dark, I didn’t care, didn’t have no home, didn’t want to live. Didn’t want to be here, just wanted to be resting in peace. ‘Cause being homeless is no rest at all. Good people, like the folks at National Alliance of Mental Illness, is what keeps me goin' now.

I feel targeted and victimized a lot. If I pretend to be happy, people target me to try to make me unhappy. Some people that’s in the circle I hang around with out here, they’re haters. I guess they don’t wanna see nobody happy. I try to be happy. For real though, I’m a pretender of being happy because inside I’m not, but I try to make other people happy and I get victimized for that or misunderstood.

People don’t see me as who I am inside. I mean, life itself is rough anyway, I don’t care what status you got, it’s still rough. You know, people look at me as a stereotype instead of really looking at me for who I am, for what’s inside me. I just want to be respected. I want to be cared for, and I want to care for. I am scared to show who I really am, ‘cause that makes me vulnerable. Because they want me to be weak. I wasn’t raised that way. I had to struggle for everything. Nobody gave me nothin' but they want to keep taking from me, except for the few people who give me some love and make me feel like I’m worthy and loved.

All I can say is that at the end of the tunnel there’s a light and there is happiness with whatever struggles you got. You can’t give up on yourself. Man, every day is a new day. I know I struggle hard. I appear and make it look like it’s easy or like it’s fun. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s not. When I leave up outta here...see, you go home and lay your head on a pillow, and I gotta put mine down on some cement.

My dream is to be off the streets. To live in my own home and see my great grandbabies I ain’t ever seen. All I gotta say is you gotta think positive ‘cause help is out there. You can’t give up, especially on yourself, ‘cause I thought I was worthless and now I feel like somebody. To be honest, I’m tired of having my head down with my tail between my legs. I mean, that’s what I been goin' through lately. The last several days have been better, ya know, but if there’s any advice that I can give anybody, it’s that your life is worth something. Your life is precious because a little sadness, a little whatever you got goin' on don’t mean you have to give up, because I almost did, and I’m glad I didn’t. 'Cause life is valuable and we all have a valuable gift of life, there is no sense in taking it away. Live it….live it!

Brought to you in partnership with:

7Billion Ones, Annie Busch, NAMI Southwest Missouri, and Touchstone Counseling