PAUL GERARD BENJAMIN
prized possession : cross
“I’m twenty-eight!” Paul jokes, eager to add a little humor to his life’s tale with enthusiasm and big grin. The fifty-five year old New Zealander has been intermittently homeless for many years and was diagnosed with schizophrenia decades ago. Still, his condition and circumstance are no deterrent for living a joyful life. “I’m the best,” he laughs. “I’m okay without my phych meds. They fuck me up. They wanted to put me away for my whole life. I’m not crazy, I’m just trying to love my life. I love my life,” Paul beams as he hands over a file of medical papers from over twenty years ago that detail much of his history. The youngest of seven children, Paul’s mother passed away from a brain tumor when he was 13. In his younger days in St. Louis, he was a cook at three different Denny’s, and a manager at another restaurant. Today he lives off his social security benefits. Volunteer work has been a meaningful part of Paul’s path. He happily shares a letter praising his volunteer work in numerous states. “Paul’s a good guy,” he says of himself. A traveller at heart, he has grown fond of Denver. However, he is trying to make his way to San Francisco, because “that place is like Disneyland.” Engaging with Paul’s warm energy is not something one quickly forgets.
Prized Possession: With his Christian faith is a key component of his life, Paul cherishes his pocket bible, although he selects a rainbow colored cross as his most valued item. “I bought it at a Denver souvenir shop for $4. I bought it here and I follow the Lord.” After sharing the story of the cross, he gave it to me. After initially declining, I accepted the special gift. “I like you. It’s yours now because you’re my friend.” Paul continued cracking jokes until the last remaining daylight disappeared behind the buildings.