After checking out the Season’s Best Craft Fair, I headed to Safeway to stock up on Govinda’s Fresh Juice and ingredients to make Portuguese Bean Soup. Upon exiting the store, I noticed a man sitting on a bench doodling away. At the time, he was working on a lotus mandala-esque type piece that was absolutely breathtaking. I commented on how beautiful his piece was and he immediately thanked me, and said he wanted to share a sample of his work with me. I was thrilled! He said he doesn’t charge people for his work, but kindly accepts donations. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any cash on me, so I thought of the next best thing. I asked “What would you like to eat?” He said “Oh anything really. I don’t like people going out of their way.” I insisted. He then suggested a piece of fried chicken or some apples. I went back into the store.
At that time, Safeway’s deli had closed. All the fried chicken and even soup was gone. I grabbed some honey crisp apples, a liter of water, a club sandwich, and a small bag of chips. It was the least I could do. I wasn’t sure when the last time he ate was, and I feel that everyone should at least have something to eat.
I returned to the gentleman and he was working on signing another piece. He said “here! I want to share another one with you!” He shared his story of how he began doodling on his books and papers in middle school. He faced some unfortunate events throughout his life, but art had remained his passion. He said he is usually in Waikiki, near the entrance of the International Marketplace. Unfortunately, he was also recently robbed there.
Joel Piller, the artist who also happens to be homeless, touched my heart and spoke to my soul. Homelessness is widespread in Hawai’i and is constantly in our face. Yet, the way in which our officials attempt to mediate the problem, doesn’t seem to be doing much at all. Many of us choose to ignore the problem because it hasn’t happened to us, or we believe they chose this, or sometimes, we don’t know how to help. Yet, doing something small like sharing a meal can mean so much to these individuals. But as long as we keep turning our heads the other way, homelessness will always continue to be a problem.
I hope I meet this man again. After posting on social media, I have a lot of friends willing to purchase his pieces and could be a great way to share his story.