Self Portrait with Comments


Yup, that’s me. On the street and on tracks where I am most comfortable. I needed a profile photo for something so thought I’d make it myself. But also think it appropriate for the few comments I’m about to make (and apologies in advance if I suddenly seem a few inches taller, I just stepped up on a little soapbox). What I’m commenting on is something that occurred the other day, some are aware of it but maybe not its extent. I’m speaking of a WKBW interview. What began as a simple human interest story about a guy in his late 50s who rides around on his bike taking photos quickly turned ugly once it was linked to the station’s Facebook page. And yes, while this instance in particularly is about me, it is bigger than that. It’s about humanity as a whole. Please allow me to continue.

Firstly, I want to say thank you to those that came to my aid. I felt the love. And also those who encouraged me to brush it off, forget about it, and let it roll off like water. Thank you. I get that. I’m usually one saying this to others.

I can and did let most the negative comments roll off, which unfortunately are expected these days...he’s a hipster, a loser, an old has-been. I could even handle the comments saying that I must have known the reporter, been a relative, or even had a “paramour” (gay lover) at the station to get the interview, and by doing so I sold my soul. But then it turned ugly, one might even say vile. There were lies and hate I had not seen spewed at anyone let alone me.

Lead by one particularly evil person who hid behind a fake profile, there was a small chorus of people who did not suggest but stated as if it were fact that I rode a bike because of a DWI. It was also implied that I had a car accident and hurt someone. This was stated not once, not twice, not even four times, but eight times throughout the post. It was also stated (again as if it were fact) that the reason I work at a group home and am no longer a chef was because I was fired from a series of jobs—because of my drug and alcohol addiction—and this was all that I could do. At one point I was compared to a local chef who did jail time. There were others, too, such that I failed at a 12 step program and that I was anti Semitic. The most vile of the comments have since been removed by the site administrator, though some still remain.

So now I pose this question to you...would you be able to simply brush it off if these things were said about you? About your very character as a person? On a web page that gets hundreds of thousands of visitors a day?

It bothered me and continues to do so. A lot. Yes of course because it was about me, but again it goes beyond that. What is this saying about our society? As you likely know, I often try to look at the good in a person and in fact think that we as humans are good deep down in our soul even if it doesn’t appear so. But this rocked me to the bones.

Yesterday I considered leaving Facebook entirely—deactivating both pages—and just focusing on my blog and Instagram. But since have thought differently. It’s been my objective for a while to post only Good (with a capital G) to counter the negative that is often seen. Now this has encouraged me to do so even more, to put on a coat of virtual armor. Not that the negative disappear—it will always be there—but that the Good will be more. It’s something we all can do. Light always overcomes darkness.

As an aside, I could tell that some of the more innocuous comments were from followers of my Urban Simplicity Facebook page...his photos are pretty good even though most are reflections in puddles. Haha...that made me laugh. And one guy lamented that most of my posts contain biblical passages (which of course is not true but to honor him I’ll leave one of my favorites at the end of this post).

Okay, so this said, I also have to be honest and say that my heart was hardened for a short period. As a person of faith I am called to pray for others, even those that persecute me. But I could not. I was not there. Yet.

Earlier today as I was making the above photo a few passersby watched, and a guy waiting at the train stop on the opposite side of the tracks asked what I was doing. I made two photos and after the shutter closed a second time I glanced up and saw three people off to one side. They were standing holding hands in a small circle with heads bowed. They were praying. Right there on the street. It was so incredibly moving, and still is as I type these words. I thought about capturing their image but it was too intimate of a moment.

Using it as a signal, and as I packed up my camera gear, I prayed. Right there on the street. Quietly, of course. I sent it out to the Universe. My forgiveness, and also hope that the people who felt the compulsion to post such hate find peace. But also that we as the human race can find peace. We are all we have. (And he quietly steps off the little soapbox).

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” ~Micah 6:8