Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Homeless Man

I did not get his name. He wandered onto the train, begging for money. He was a homeless Vietnam Vet. I was skeptical of his story until he pulled his knitted toboggan off and you could see where half his forehead was gone from a shatter blast. His wife had died of cancer years ago, and he had slowly sunk into despair, depression and loss of all his worldly goods over the years. He had become a beggar with no home or family.

Now, what I found to be curious was that he was a white man, but every person who gave him money that day (at least 7 individuals) was black. I have often seen the white man give to the black beggar, but this truly warmed my heart, especially to see the black folks' generosity to one in need in spite of his color. I once was told that "God does not see the  color of your skin" and that day, I clearly saw evidence that mercy and charity work both ways.

It was winter and extremely cold outside and I asked, "Where is your coat?"  He told me it was stolen when he was trying to check into one of the local shelters. All I had was a pair of stretch black woolen gloves and I gladly gave him those. The question is, had I been a man, would I have given him my good coat? He loudly recited this verse in its entirety from the Bible.  (Matthew 25:35-40).

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

He was pulled from the train after the next stop by a police officer who happened to be on board. I will never see this man again but he and the other "givers" taught me the greatest story of love that day.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bless You, First Lady of Alabama, Patsy Riley

First Lady Patsy Riley has a ministry called Blankets with a Blessing. I was blessed myself in being allowed to go to the Governor's Mansion, thanks to my talented and beautiful friend, Dorothy Ziegler,  to get a bundle of blankets to give out on one of my back roads trips to those who would need them in this brutal ~~so far~~ Southern winter. My wonderful Tuskeegee friend, William Bray, knows his community well and promised to give a few to those in his area.  My next stop was to a gentleman who is shut in and lives alone. Another blanket was given to a terminally ill man in Montgomery, who just wanted something warm for his bed.

The blankets have a simple prayer by St. Francis and the Bible verse John 16:33 attached. The message simply ends with

"This blanket comes to you with blessings from the First Lady of Alabama, Patsy Riley, and the citizens of Alabama."

So, thank you, Mrs. Riley, for this great ministry you started and your generous heart to reach out to those in need. Thank you also to the people of Alabama who donate these warm, fleecy blankets and to Leah and Emily, assistants to the First Lady. I wish you could meet each person you bless with your generosity!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Heavy Hearts

I had never been this close to poverty before. At least four boys played ball in the street. The ladies and small children were inside. I was invited in. The room was bare and could not have been more than 12x12'. Two closed doors led to other small rooms. There were nine of us and it was warm inside even though it was 37 outside. They had one piece of furniture, a sofa, and all the ladies sat on it while I sat with the children on the floor. My husband and I had taken a few toys and a few jackets to the kids, thanks to a generous donation from a family I met. My nervous husband sat in the car waiting. He was not happy about being in this place. As I approached the car after my visit, a lady in a wheelchair rolled down the street and asked if I had a gift for her. I promised to return with one. My heart was overwhelmed with thoughts of this moment as we witnessed the many needs of this entire street of families. We traveled back to the comforts of our home with a heaviness in our hearts over the poverty in our great state of Alabama.

Monday, November 29, 2010


He reached his hand down into the trash can and looked up to glare at me. I asked permission to take the picture and he nodded yes. Have you ever seen someone eat from a trash can? It is heartbreaking. It truly makes me count my blessings that I take so much for granted. If you have read ~same kind of different As me~, you will understand the reason some eat (or pretend to eat) the leftovers from the filthy can when they are down and out and hungry. During this Christmas I encourage you who have plenty to share with others....toys, books, warm blankets, and food. It is such a privilege and joy to be able to help others who have so little. Unfortunately, the day I took this photo, I did not have money with me and will perhaps never see the man again. I hope someone else fed him that day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


He sat in a wheelchair close to the side of the busy county road. It was my back roads route from the interstate to the family farm. Each time I passed by, the memory of his loneliness haunted me. I finally pulled over one day and met the old man. His family had left him and had taken almost everything he owned. Alcohol was his best friend. He had a little peanut butter and some shabby clothes. I knew where to get him a blanket and my husband was happy to raid his own closet for a few pairs of pants and sweaters to keep this man warm during the oncoming winter weather. After all, his electric bill was really past due. We will check on him again soon.
He sat in his wheelchair by the side of the busy road. It was my back road route from the interstate to the family farm. I saw him often and when I passed him the memory of his lon

Friday, November 5, 2010

Alabama Capitol

The Alabama Capitol sits in the Black Belt region of Alabama.

 The state has numerous opportunities for anyone to help those less fortunate:

Jimmie Hale Mission   (B'ham. AL)
Jessie's Place   (B'ham. AL)
First Lady Patsy Riley's Blankets with a Blessing Ministry  (Montgomery, AL)
Faith Rescue Mission   (Montgomery, AL)
Montgomery Area Food Bank  (Montgomery, AL)
Auburn Food Bank    (Auburn, AL)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gees Bend Generations

Often generations of a family in the rural South live near each other. I have the privilege of knowing Velma, and on my last trip to see her, I met her Daughter and Grandson who live next door. They invited me to attend church with them, but I had to decline that day. I hope to go back soon with some framed photos of her Grandson.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Neverland Ferris Wheel

The Autauga County Fair, just miles from the Black Belt Region has Michael Jackson's wonderful Neverland Ferris Wheel! Jeremy, also known as Hillbilly, helps put the big wheel together. He has been in the fair business 18 years. He's only about 21, so I think he got started early. His next stop is Moody, Alabama, but the Neverland Ferris Wheel goes in another direction. Jeremy is the "Never Ending" story of the wonderful Southern people that cross my path. Young and passionate about his mechanical and technical work, he also loves working at Ashley's Place (one of the food booths) after the rides he is responsible for are assembled. He called Ashley his cousin, though they are not related. This wonderful group of people working so hard to bring pleasure to the rural South have become a family to each other.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

School's Out!

This family of 7 Letohatchee children (6 in the photo) made my day this summer as they took time out from play for a photograph on their front porch. They were precious. School is back in now and winter is on the way, but hopefully I can find them playing outside again next spring!

Monday, September 20, 2010


He is the son of a Georgia Black Belt region sharecropper. His prized possession is his pickup truck painted like an American flag. If the truck isn't parked right in front, Willie is out for the day. This was my second visit to see him. He had bad news.....cancer and 21 days of chemotherapy.  There is no family nearby to help and he needs a new radiator for the truck. The plastic gloves he wore on my first visit still covered his hands. He has arthritis and needs these gloves for a better grip on anything he picks up. Someone had given him some scrap metal and he was able to make a little money, but it was barely enough. The needs of people in our community are overwhelming! I gave him my phone number if he needed me, but hopefully someone closer by will have a heart to help him. I promised to come back and take him to lunch. I'd love to hear more about his life.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tent Revival Alabama

I have always wanted to go to a Southern Evangelical Tent Revival! I finally got my wish. I rounded the corner from our farm house and there sat the big yellow and white tent on what used to be family property. The sign read Gospel Tent Meeting and I would be in town! However, I wanted to slip into the tent right that moment to do a little photography. After an hour with 2 cameras plus a fish eye lens, I was content. I was back that evening to hear Evangelist Bruce Chriestenson proclaim the Word using I Peter 4. Several soloists sang old gospel hymns including Amazing Grace. (the tambourine added the perfect background as we all eventually sang along). The Reverend anointed one man with oil when the preaching was finished and after praying over this jobless man, sang a solo himself. This truly was a special time for me as I experienced the area where I live. Bruce and I spoke the next day about how we could help the homeless, battered women,  the hungry, and those who needed warm blankets as winter approaches.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Across the yard she came. In her hands she carried a pitch fork taller than she was. I don't know who was more frightened, the lady or me. "I just wanted to get to know you", I said, as I shook from head to toe and stared at the hatchet sticking up out of the ground just three feet away. I was also trying to disregard the yapping dogs who were tied with rope to the front porch. They were ready to have me served up for their dinner.

Needless to say, traveling the backroads can be risky business, but I have been amazed at the warmth of the rural folks I meet. Emma and I became friends that day. She told me a little about herself and I left, promising to come back soon. I have a great book I want to take to her.

same kind of different As me
authors Ron Hall and Denver Moore

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Promised Land

I call Alabama my own "promised" land. Having lived away from it the past 10 years, I,  as a passionate photographer, have pursued the back roads of the Black Belt region in order to document the lives and thoughts of the people there. By seeking home front encounters with the wonderful, warm people of this region, I have learned more about Alabama history than I did from text books. I hope to use my blog, as a reminder to all, that often we need each others help. My focus will be on blankets this winter, books for the shut ins, and diapers for the babies/toddlers. I welcome any advice and I hope to post photos as I follow my heart and dreams for my neighbors.