Cannot be judged by our station in life
If you spent enough time in Arcadia, you were bound to see a small man laboriously pushing a grocery cart twice his size. It was usually piled high with cans, shoes, clothes, anything of value. If it was within reach of that broomstick with a nail on the end, it ended up in his cart. His self-appointed job was to pick up our discarded treasures as he traveled the streets and alleys of Arcadia. His name was Juan, he was homeless. Cheeto his dog always led the way. Cheeto would set the pace, sometimes wondering around the corner and out of sight, but always coming back to his partner. Cheeto and Juan lived life their way.
I had the pleasure of meeting Juan on one of his journeys. I showed him my camera and asked if I could photograph him as he pushed his cart up the sidewalk (I told him I would give him three dollars, you can see the money rolled up in his hand in one of the photos). He smiled and answered in Spanish. I took that for a yes.
The next time I saw Juan and Cheeto they were crossing Oak Street headed for the alley behind Batter Up Bakery. It was early morning, the sun fell on the subject with a yellow glow. This was a photograph that typified their life in Arcadia.
I never saw Juan beg, he was always set to the task, pushing that cart, his small frame angled forward so that he could get the leverage to keep going. When his cart was full, he would head for the recycling center several miles out of town to cash in his hard-earned treasures. Those who saw him were inspired; we learned that a man cannot be judged by his station in life, but by his character. His silent presence was an inspiration. In the words of a wise man — preach often, sometimes use words.
Juans’ life has been cut short, but I think he lived it the way he wanted. He had a loyal friend who was with him every day. He believed in God. He had people who cared about him. What else could we ask for?