When I first met Matthew, he came to our yoga class, which was only the 3rd one that we had held (it’s now a staple of our center). When Miss Kayla asked if anyone had any injuries, he raised his hand and said, “I have a bullet in my leg”. Kayla is pretty unshakeable, but even she looked surprised and told him to do what was within his abilities, but if he was in pain, to ease up a little. After class, I asked him how he found us, and he said that he had been to Love Wins before, but he had been in jail and had just gotten out. Matt and I began to form a friendship.
Matt is a tough young man. He was raised in the foster care system from house to house. He calls anyone who was in a foster family with him, his brother or sister. He has over 40 siblings and relations because of this. He was born with a seizure disorder that makes owning a driver’s license an impossibility. He’s tough, he’s damaged, but he’s also kind. He’s great with kids, especially if they’re in that age-group where they want to hang upside-down, be flown around like an airplane, and ride around on shoulders- he shines in that capacity. He has a tiny butterfly tattooed on his body.
We’ve had hard times too. At one point in time, when he was having a very bad day, he lashed out at some volunteers who had made lunch because there was nothing there that he liked to eat. It was a simple lunch, turkey wraps, pasta salad, boiled eggs, bags of potato chips, and he had arrived late, so pickings were few. He proclaimed that we didn’t have anything good to eat (and some other choice words in a loud voice with a full dining room). We had to temporarily ban him, and that broke my heart.
Months later (and another jail stay), his girlfriend came to the center and she was pregnant. Matt met with Pastor Hugh, and they had a serious talk. He was going to be a father, and he wanted to be a good one. He apologized and came back to the community a changed person. He was working hard on himself every day to grow as a person and learning ways to cope with his emotions. He asked for some sharpies and started drawing a mural in the dining room on the wall- we discovered how talented of an artist he was!
Matthew’s trials were not yet over, though. His girlfriend lost the baby, and he took it really hard (they are still together and doing great at this point). He became even more motivated to get his life in order so that one day they could have a child and do it all “right”. He loves his girlfriend, and she loves him. They rarely leave each other’s side. With the help of some really awesome folks, he’s navigating his disability paperwork, getting his seizure medication, signing up for food stamps, and trying to find part-time work and housing. In the meantime, he’s directed his efforts to drawing as a way to channel his energy, and his pictures are beautiful.
He has an “animae” style to drawing characters. He’s inspired by Dragonball Z, and Pokemon. I take pictures of what he draws so that if anything happens to his bag (and often times, our folks bags get wet or damaged), his pictures will still exist. I want to keep him in art supplies as he develops his talent. I want to nourish this part of him that loves to create, because that love can overtake the part that wants to destroy. Matthew was born with many obstacles and challenges, but for now, he has a safe space to be where he can grow into the man that he wants to be.
In my ideal world, I want to foster this passion in each and every person. I want to feed Matthew’s talent as he becomes the kind and loving future father that I know he can become. I want to provide a space, colored pencils, paint, paper. I want him to succeed. I want him to one day know a home that isn’t a cell, a hospital or a tent. In the meantime, we’ll be his home, and I’ll archive his work.
*Matt’s story was written with his encouragement. Our goal is to have an art show for Matt.