Wednesday, February 26, 2014


We could talk all day about the difference that we hope to have on the people around us, but sometimes those people end up impacting us more than we ever anticipated. Marcus is a perfect example.

We visited Marcus at his home under an overpass of US 31. He was pacing protectively of his two-tent neighborhood when we called out to him. Upon hearing our greeting, he was delighted to have company and invited us onto his territory.

As we got closer, he politely turned off his Walkman that blanketed the sounds of cars passing overhead with rhythm and blues. He smiled a toothless, genuine grin, introduced himself, shook our hands, and started a conversation that we will never forget.

At four years old, Marcus moved to Birmingham from New York with his grandmother after their neighborhood became too crowded. He attended West End High School, where he graduated and went on to join the Air Force, working as a mechanic.

Although he didn’t like traveling so frequently and his lack of independence during this time, he spoke proudly of his years in the Air Force, saying that he was glad he was able to serve his country nobly, describing it as “dying for the wealth of death”.

Following these years in the military, Marcus was able to go to school thanks to the G.I. Bill, ultimately graduating with a degree in accounting from UAB. Upon graduation, he moved to Georgia to serve his country once again.

Unfortunately, due to the cars passing overhead and how enthusiastically he was about speaking to us, much of Marcus’s story was left unintelligible and disjointed. We were unable to piece together how, exactly, he ended up underneath the overpass.

Marcus told us that he has been living in the tents for the past seven years. He, along with one woman and two other men who were not present at the time of the interview, all call this overpass home.

They choose not to sleep in the shelters around the area for fear of their belongings being taken in the night. Despite the harsh weather conditions Birmingham experienced over the past few months, they chose to remain vulnerable and exposed just to stand guard over their possessions.

Marcus told us that they primarily get their food and clothing from people that stop to drop things off for them, for which he expressed endless gratitude.

We noticed the looming “No Trespassing” sign hanging above his tent and asked about the police presence in the area. Marcus told us that they are able to stay as long as they keep it clean and don’t cause a commotion, saying, “We believe in them, and they believe in us”

There were so many quotes from Marcus that were spoken so gracefully that I could barely scribble it down fast enough:

“People think homeless people have an attitude that they don’t care about other people, but it’s both of our jobs to be nice to each other.”

“We love our life, but we love to hate.”

“My old age is coming, new people are coming in, and nobody is taking a stand for love.”

He spoke with so much truth and conviction that I forgot that he was the one that called a tent under an overpass home.

One of the most incredible things about Marcus is that, although he is homeless, he still lives his life with intentions of serving others. Marcus told us about a friend of his that challenged him to live with a purpose, despite his conditions, by spreading love and helping everyone he can.

Instead of seeing the streets as his prison and homelessness as his sentence, he sees it as his mission field and his calling.

We started this project with the goal of making a difference.  Perhaps that difference goes hand in hand with Marcus’s calling of spreading love. Perhaps that difference began with us. 

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