Today, I drove from the Bay Area to San Diego. A 8 hour journey turned into a 11 hour mission due to holiday traffic. I stopped at a gas station in San Diego, CA and came across this man. I wished him a Merry Christmas, introduced myself and asked him his name. He told me his name was John and from there we continued to talk.

John was born in Massachusetts and grew up amongst 9 siblings. He’s 2nd generation American of Polish and Italian decent. In his 20’s John served in the marines and fought in the Vietnam war. He’s Roman Catholic and doesn’t believe in killing. John said he’s never had a confirmed kill during the Vietnam war and would purposely miss the enemy or shoot them in non lethal areas. John left the marines in 1968.

John spent some time patrolling the borders as a Border Patrol Agent. One night he almost got shot in the chest at close blank range at night, by a smuggler… Luckily the gun misfired and the smugglers assumed John was dead. There were other Patrolmen watching him from afar, but he said that they just watched and were going to let him die. Something told John not to move, he just laid still in the dark not knowing whether he was wounded or not. That night he said he was saved by God’s grace and that feeling he had came from God, he became a “believer”. In 1983, not too long after he quit his job as a Border Patrol Agent, he went through a divorce. Since then, he’s been living on the streets.

John told me about the area where we stood and described how it looked when he first settled in the area many years ago. He said he lived in that area when the shopping center was just tree’s and shrubs. He’s been finding himself spiritually, and chooses to live humbled wandering in the area. He told me that there are many instances where some strangers would offer him meth and coke sometimes he has it thrown at him.  But he’s not a user or a drinker. Occasionally, he’d find a sack of “green” or bits of resin in emptied bags and mixes it with Monster to drink and rub on his leg. He said it helps with the pain in his joints. He walks with a limp because he was stabbed in the leg sometime last year during memorial day. John’s leg is still swollen, he never told me why he was stabbed…

He chose this path after his wife left him almost 32 years ago. When he first started sleeping on the streets 10 pigeons landed on him, and he did not have any food or seeds on him.  He said, “When the birds landed on me, that was the Holy Spirit’s touch.” He then spent almost half his life on the streets. Despite the obstacles he faces out there and the atrocities he’s witnessed in this life, John is still a kind soul in good spirits. He’s not a drinker or a user and since his divorce he remained celibate. John doesn’t yearn  for anything more in this life. John’s selflessness and faith is inspiring. It’s similar to the journey Buddha went through when leaving all material behind and living in simplicity and meditation.

John is purging his soul through suffering from what he sees impure in this world. I”m glad to have come across John, and I wish him well on his path to enlightenment. I respect that he can live in such a way because of his epiphany and belief. He asked me of my religion, and when I told him, he didn’t try to convert me. John just wanted to share his story with me. I appreciated this gift of enlightenment from that kind soul on Christmas Eve.

This enlightened soul is the photo of the day #76.