Let's just say they were not who I set out to meet. That was Freddie, a very high, very drunk homeless man. I had seen Freddie pushing his cart before, and in fact I’m pretty sure I’ve helped him out with money and food in the past. I knew his face and I knew his shitck. Today, Freddie was in no mood to be interviewed. He wanted to interview me. About five minutes into the Q&A I knew needed someone more sober and more focused to talk with.
That’s where Benjamin and his two year old son come into view.
Ade (a-Day, a Nigerian word that means “crown”) was running away as little boys do. Benjamin, a tired young father was doing his best to keep up. I joked it’s funny how at this age they don’t stop running but in ten years you’re going to have trouble getting him to do anything but sit around playing video games. “You have kids?”
It's always cool to see how our commonality can break the ice. It didn’t take long to discover we had a lot in common.
I would argue that his greatest work of art was Ade, who had stopped petting my dog to climb and teeter on the bleacher behind us. He watched us as we watched him. As a father, my blood pressure was rising as he ran back and forth, and up and down the seats. But Benjamin was cool. His parenting style, like his painting style, was very natural.
His greatest surprise (so far) about being a father was something i knew all too well. “I never thought I could cry like that” he said talking about the delivery. We never do. We don’t realize how powerful of an emotion love is until we experience love unconditionally.
We both discovered early on that there’s more to parenthood then love. It takes work, chasing and catching and lifting up and fixing things and being there as much as you can when you’re not painting or holding down two jobs to make ends meet.
Benjamin grew up learning to navigate between parents and their respective homes. He wants to give Ade a more stable life. “I want him to be more than just happy. I want him to be ready for the world. If he needs to hunt, I want him to know how to hunt. If he needs to fish, I want him to know how to fish.” A self-taught artist, and a self-taught dad.
Like Freddy before him, Benjamin began to ask me questions. He was not taken back when I told him I was a minister. The church was a familiar place for him. But eventually he left it when “what the bible said didn’t always align with what he was going on in the church.” Another thing we had in common. We also both agreed that when we “do good things, things turn out good. But when I don’t neither does life.”
A self-taught artist, dad and philosopher – that’s Benjamin. As for Ade, I suspect he will have a bunch of stuff in common with his dad too.