I asked Kenneth if I could sit down and watch his performance. He took out his earphones and gave me his undivided attention instead. Kenneth later told me how agitated he was at this point in time. An effective way to relieve his stress was through music and his baton. After talking to him for three hours, those negative feelings within him disappeared.
From my garbage bag, I took out my pillow, tossed it onto the pavement, covered myself with a blanket and was ready to listen. The streets of Vancouver are like a giant storybook; every person has something fascinating to say. So here I am. I am sitting in an alley waiting for the next story to begin. Turn the page.
It didn’t take long until we started discussing the cosmos, God, spirituality, the beginning of time, energies and the meaning of life. Just like every other homeless or impoverished man I have met in the Eastside so far, these subjects have been thoroughly analyzed within their minds. In some cases, these subjects may have been analyzed too deeply. I am not sure if the same can be said about “us” back home. We tend to be pre-occupied with other things in our lives to consider fundamental questions of our own existence.
Nevertheless, I’m not sure if I can do any justice in telling you his story in words. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I can do justice in telling you any stories in words, but I can definitely try. I wish I had recorded our conversation on video. But as Kenneth would later tell me, he may have acted differently on camera. Don’t we all act differently when we know that someone is watching us?
If there was one thing that blew my mind about Kenneth, was his simplicity. It was very admirable. For the first ten minutes or so, he was actually questioning me. The questioning was to figure out who I was and what I wanted from him. For all he knew, I could be some mental psycho killer or a police officer. But with time and, Kenneth realized that I was genuinely interested in what he had to say without any ulterior motives.
So here is a part of Kenneth’s story; his alley used to be infested with rats. It was infested to the point that Kenneth counted up to 28 rats with one single glance. Therefore, he decided to have a positive impact on this space. He did this by “creating positive energy around it”.
The mission in his mind was clear; this rat problem must be solved. These rats were bad for business, bad for the city and bad for sanitary reasons. The parking lot located in this alley was rarely used now due to this rat problem. Customers were not willing to sidestep dozens of rats each time they needed to park their cars. The shop owners felt the same way. The four surrounding businesses were not able to eradicate this rat problem; instead a homeless man was able to do it.
So it was time for Kenneth to take charge of the situation. The shop owners were using different kinds of pest control for these rats. So Kenneth facilitated communication between the managers and offered a solution to their problem. His solution was to have all the owners use the same pest control. Isn’t this what the idea of community is all about?
Three of the four shop owners complied with his request. The rats started to disappear one by one. In a matter of time, the rat problem was not an issue any longer. During our entire three-hour conversation, I saw one rat dart across the alley. I pointed that out to him. He replied, “that rat lives in the building that didn’t comply to my solution”.
With this rat problem solved, Kenneth directed his attention towards drug users in the alley. He doesn’t allow anybody to smoke crack here. Anytime someone smokes crack in this alley, he tells them to do it somewhere else. His zero tolerance towards certain substance abusers got him into physical altercations in the past.
The shop’s doors flung open. Kenneth excused himself and ran over to assist the worker who was dropping off garbage bags along with cardboard boxes. Kenneth’s job was to break down these boxes and recycle them into their proper bins. In return, he was given a bottle of cranberry juice and a “thank you”. It is clear to see why the shop owners like him.