What I Saw in Their Eyes

Categories: News, Student Stories, Uncategorized


This post was written by Evan Rau, Columbia student, about his experiences preparing for a one-act play – Reflections – directed by Worship Arts student Rebecca Laurenti. Scroll to the end for info about  showtimes and ticket prices.

I am sitting with some old friends and some new ones around a campfire, under a bridge, in the pouring rain. The smoke automatically triggers the smell of smores in my memory – maybe it is because tents surround me. But this isn’t a brief getaway from the stresses of life…. my new friends, our hosts, call the tents home – in short, they are homeless.

How did I get here? Rebecca Laurenti, a fellow CBC student, is directing a play for a class through Gallery 7, called “Reflections.” Written by Jennifer Kersley,  the play is about several different characters who are on the verge of living on the street. We decided we did not want to play these characters as caricatures, but as real people. That is why we are being led by an outreach worker into this quilted community: so we can hear true stories and meet real human beings.

First, we met Tanya,[1] a lady in her 40s (although her face has signs of more than 40 years’ life experience). Tanya has only been living on the streets for a month and would like this stage of life to be made temporary. I am looking around at the clean patio she has created out of planks and boards placed together neatly like a puzzle – It is clear that she is house-proud and far from the condescending image of an unwashed vagrant I have in my mind. I look into her eyes and see my friends, I even see myself. She is no different than the rest of us, and I realize it does not take much hardship to be where she is. She tells us about her life on the street and what led her there. My eyes drift to the river below us: there is a teddy bear floating face up, like a dead body amongst the mud, litter, and urine. I think of the innocence and purity that was soiled in Tanya’s life; I feel numb, yet my heart is breaking. Tanya suggests we meet others who have been living this life longer, and we thank her for her time.

Next, we met Devon,* a First Nations man around 40 to 50 years old with bloodshot eyes and a childlike smile. He tells us about the nickname he grew up with, loosely translated, “little devil”. What effect must a name like that have on a child? He got this name because he’s always been extremely intelligent and intuitive. Just by looking in your eyes he knows what you are about to think. He has dreams, he has hurts, and he has passions. In some ways, he is a lot like me – he wishes it were not too late to have kids. One of the girls on my team suggest that she could be his daughter, his eyes light up and this becomes the latest joke. It would be funny if I had not made the same joke with some friends on campus. I am grappling for the divider between “us” and “them” but there is none. There are just us. We are all God’s children, wonderfully diverse, with our own struggles, vices and dreams – unfortunately, some of us do not have a mirror to see the soot on our face yet alone the means to accomplish said dreams.

Devon invited us over to the community fire where we meet Markus.* Markus has health issues but struggles to get the medication he needs, because of the way society labels him. Thirty minutes ago, I was a part of that society but now we are sitting in their patio chairs around their fire like we are having a drink at a buddy’s place. All I can now see in front of me is a father, who is proud of his children, and a government system that makes seeing them difficult because of his juvenile record. As an adult, he is doing all he can to be a functioning member of society. He made mistakes as a kid, and now his own children are in foster care due to these mistakes – where is the justice in that? Also, the only time Markus got somewhat decent healthcare was after he overdosed. The message he is receiving is that “we won’t help you live healthily, but we’ll keep you from death because THAT wouldn’t be fulfilling our duties”.

reflections-playSo what do I do with the knowledge of these beautiful people? Honestly, I do not know. I hope I do my new friends justice in this drama. I know they will be on my mind as we walk onto that stage (December 10th, CBC; December 11th, O’Neill’s – 8pm curtain); but my desire is that they will also be on yours. I hope that when you come out and watch us, you look into our faces and see theirs; I hope that when you hear us speak, you hear their stories. But I want to caution you, if you look into the faces of those sitting next to you, you may just see one of my new friends. I know I will.

Reflections will run on December 10 at Columbia Bible College, 8 PM curtain & December 11 at O’Neills Homecooking Diner (33771 Gosling Way), 8 PM Curtain.  The tickets are online (https://reflections.ticketleap.com/), $5 each, $10 for a group of 4; $7 at the door.

[1] A pseudonym given for their anonymity.