Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 43: Roy DeLeon

Here I am with my friend Roy, who I ran into on the streets of Victoria BC last summer. Serendipity (defined as "luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for)! Roy used to work with me until he retired in 2015. I still haven't quite recovered from his departure as he has left a hole in my work life. He was my creative hive mind in one. Any time I needed out-of-the-box brainstorming ideas, Roy would be the first one I'd call. I wrote about my history with Roy back when he retired in 2015. I think of him as my Zen Catholic friend.

Today I wanted to feature Roy because he is a naturalized immigrant from the Philippines, so his home country and his adopted country are both in turmoil right now. I remember speaking to Roy before the election in the Philippines and hearing his fear about the potential election of the brutal Duterte. At the time neither of us thought that Trump would be elected. Sadly, both countries find themselves in a scary mess for different reasons.

Roy has been chronicling his thoughts and feelings in art for many years, and a few years ago he began sharing his painted vignettes from visits to Starbucks on Facebook. Many of these paintings were accompanied by beautiful words as well, like this one: 
The boy raised his arms looking at mom.
Mom obliged and carried him on her hip.
Then the boy stuck his hand into his mom's hood
 as if he's reaching for and looking for something.

"The heart of a mother is a deep abyss
 at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness."
~Honoré de Balzac
It doesn't have to be Mother's Day to give thanks to our mothers and all the mothers we meet.
Or this one:
Starbucks People -
He was sitting in the comfy chair by the entrance since I came in.
After about 5 minutes of me waiting for a sketch subject,
he stood up and walked to order a drink.
 In line, he looked back to his seat to check that no one takes it.

No one did because he left his jacket on the chair.
Looking back at my day today,
What was pleasant?
Who can I thank for it?
What was unpleasant?
What did I learn about myself from that event?
Since the election, Roy has particularly focused his painting and sketching on those in the margins, like refugees and immigrants. He is a man of pure hospitality and kindness and makes friends wherever he goes. 
Lent 2017
At the Religious Ed Congress in Anaheim, CA, a friend introduced me to this
 young, petite Philipina liturgical dancer from New York.
She danced with my friend during one of the masses.
She was bummed that day 'cause she lost her driver's license.
 Her passport though was being FedEx'd by mom so she can fly back home.

Back home, she works in the financial sector,
but dreams of
 leaving that 9-to-5er to just dance and do what she loves the most.
Hearing and seeing her exuberance and determination, she'll get there sooner.
She's the daughter of immigrants from the Philippines.
"Today I have set before you
Life and death,
Blessing and curse.
Choose life."
~ God to Moses
Sometimes his sketches or portraits are of famous images or people:

As I drew this from a photo by the WPA photographer Dorothea Lange during the depression in 1938,
I felt the hot Texas sun on this lady's skin and bones in her tattered dress and pained expression.
I felt the suffering, the injustice, the violence of the widening divide between the haves and the have nots.
Sketching can be a powerful tool for meditation on compassion and lovingkindness.
"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor,
it cannot save the few who are rich."
~ John F. Kennedy
May we help in anyway we can. Like the panhandler's sign says: Anything helps.
Evening Drawing-Meditation:
"This is YOUR beloved child -
With whom I am well pleased.
Listen to them."
(Reference photo from
showing 5-yr old Omran Daqneesh after he was rescued from a destroyed building after an air strike in Aleppo.)
And other times they are just people he sees on his journey:
As soon as I saw this South Asian mother and child crossing the Bothell Bridge,
it reminded me of migrants and refugees trying to get to a bridge leading to freedom from political persecution,
from violence, hunger and poverty, due to their government's corruption and war. 

And on the domestic front, those who are looking for affordable health and dental care,
employment, affordable housing, or c
ompassionate and safe space for the night.
"When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself,
for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." ~ Leviticus
May every being's night be relaxing and sleep restorative.

Roy is taking a Facebook break during Holy Week, but I'm sure he's still sketching and painting! He has garnered a strong following on his Facebook page. as many of us are inspired by his art and words. We should all be this productive, compassionate, and loving in retirement! 

I feel extremely fortunate to know this compassionate and loving artist and writer. Roy, in his own image and words:

"What is this precious love and laughter
Budding in our hearts?
It is the glorious sound
Of a soul waking up!"
- from 'I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz' by Daniel Ladinsky.
That's me practicing the throw-the-head-back laughter.
It tones the neck and hopefully firms the double chin.
 It's also the counterpose to text-neck. And you feel silly good as heck.
And a few other random Roy artworks at the end of this post. 

Read all my Lenten challenge posts here

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