Jan. 28, 2020
Senior art major Jason Leith ambled into an empty grass field in an abandoned lot a month ago, simultaneously wandering into the life of a stranger — a person who would become a new friend and spark of inspiration.
Leith did not expect to find anything in particular leaving a breakfast meeting one morning to spend a few moments in thought and prayer in a nearby field. He was drawn to the location because he appreciated the aesthetic beauty of the natural space sandwiched between the busy streets near a La Mirada shopping center — only a five-minute drive from Biola University. When he saw a man settled in the opposite corner, he immediately felt compelled to talk to him. Before crossing the field, however, Leith hurried back to his car to retrieve his sketchbook and pencils.
He started by drawing the cool, clear autumn day and began to put the raw landscape down on paper. Then, he approached the man, offered a friendly hello and politely introduced himself.
“Somehow, the conversation started … and within another 20 seconds of talking about nothing, he invited me over, under the shaded, hidden-away area to sit next to him,” Leith said. “It was kind of like coming into his home.”
The man, named Steve, has called a small cluster of pine trees hidden behind a dumpster his home for more than three years. Leith asked the homeless man if he could sketch a portrait of him. As he penciled in the man's rough features, Leith listened carefully as Steve struggled to tell his story through his speech difficulty.
Eventually, Steve grew curious about Leith’s art, his life and why he was out there that day. He shared his faith in Jesus Christ and the direction that trust gave his life. When the sketch was finished, Leith saw his drawing clearly impressed his new friend. Leith left, assuring Steve that he would return for another visit soon.
Since that day, Leith has begun using his drawing to help Steve. He has raised hundreds of dollars by auctioning off his portrait and selling copies of the original with a brief explanation of what ministry efforts he intends to pursue. Leith explained he wants to use the money he makes from his art to pay for Steve’s necessities like blankets, socks and food so he can come back to the field with a meal to share every week or so.
“[Steve] has gotten himself into the worst situation that he is not going to be able to get out of by himself,” said Leith, adding that Steve needs a community to care about him. “I think any of us could be there.”
Leith, who plans to use his talent for art to make a difference for the rest of his life, said this project is just the start.
“There are so many people out there who are really in need and not easy to reach, mostly the people that the community neglects because they are difficult people,” he said.
Leith's faith in Jesus Christ is what motivates him to connect with others, he said. He encourages people that improving the world can be as simple as taking a step out of one's comfort zone and using one's skills to help others.
For more information and to see Leith’s portrait of Steve and other artwork, visit his blog, “A Life Worth Looking At.”
Written by Jessica Airey, Media Relations Intern. For more information, please contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 562.777.4061.
media [dot] relations [at] biola [dot] edu