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We rarely know their names. They are individuals that solicit money as you walk down the street or while you are stopped at a traffic signal.

Listening to Susanne's story

But sometimes that is not the case and the people we pass on the street or a street corner become a part of our lives, even if just for a short time. Reading this post, “Meet Anthony…a story of hunger” from Bobby Rettew reminded me of the Michael Nye exhibit on mental illness that the South Carolina Hospital Association brought to Columbia, S.C. last year.

The exhibit, which ran for six weeks at 701 Whaley allowed visitors the opportunity to look into the faces and hear the recoded voices of about 50 individuals suffering from a wide range of mental disorders including depression, schizophrenia, dementia, and anxiety.

A month later, I had the opportunity to attend the opening of Nye’s “Hunger & Resilience” show in San Antonio, my second hometown. At that show, Nye had several of the people whose stories were captured in images and words on the wall speak at the opening. There was a teacher, former journalist and mother that told parts of the story that you didn’t hear in their three minute excerpts. They were no longer anonymous people living on the wall. They were their in front of you telling their stories of struggle and survival.

Just as with the “Fine Line” show, the stories really tugged at my heart and soul. I know that it wouldn’t take long for me to be any one of them that are captured in time and space.

Walking around the both exhibit spaces, people stood, sat, leaned against the wall and listened intensely. One woman said to the man and children she was with at the Witte Museum, “we are very lucky.”

When talking to Nye about why he left his law practice to do this type of work, he said that these individuals are like you and me. It’s true. It’s by the grace of something or someone that I am where I am today. It doesn’t take much or long for many people to be without a roof over their head, food on the table, or suffer from a severe crisis.

It was one of those times where I looked at the world a little different. It’s not that my circumstances had changed, but I had a different lens to look through. My day to day troubles seemed very small in comparison to the struggles of these individuals. Upon reflection, they still seem small in the grand scheme of things.

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