Walking down College Street with friends after a poetry reading on Friday night, I first thought this statue was a real person. My heart sunk, and I felt it drop into my belly. Quickly. I was startled, thinking I might have tripped over him, worried for this person’s well-being. I stopped and turned, saw the open hand, wanted to speak with them. Then a friend’s partner said, “No...it’s a statue, Kim,” because he could see the confusion on my face. I couldn’t believe him at first, felt pulled between dimensions somehow. Then my friend Maria said, “Look at his hand. See? It’s Jesus. It’s a statue.” More confusion for me until I could see, streetlights playing with light and shadow, the stigmata in his hand. This is “Whatsoever You Do,” by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz. It’s more regularly referred to as “Homeless Jesus,” and it seems that people often mistake him for a living person. The statue is a representation of charity—a hand extended, a head bent, face obscured. It reminded me that we don’t need to know a person’s name or story to be able to reach out and show kindness or consideration in tiny ways. It reminded me to be mindful, and to be more thoughtful of others, and it made me glad to think—again— of how public art can have a visceral and very emotional impact on a person. In a few seconds, “Whatsoever You Do” pulled me out of myself, nudged me, took my hand, and then told me a story I needed to hear...in silence.
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