Candles, Flowers, & Notes from Gerardo Michael Juarez vigil

Who Was this Surprising Man to Powerfully Affect His Neighborhood?

In our final weblog earlier than Christmas, we take a break from worldwide delivery to give attention to the folks round us. Specifically, a person who made such an influence on the neighborhood of Lawndale, a small metropolis within the higher Los Angeles space, that neighborhood members got here collectively to lift cash to erect a plaque within the man’s honor.

A Day by day Breeze article by Sandy Mazza in regards to the man stated that folks truly questioned if he “was an angel — or just like the Buddha when he gave up his life as a royal prince, or Jesus when he traveled ministering to the general public.”

What unimaginable public determine might be so beloved to encourage comparisons to angels, the Buddha, and Jesus Christ? The reply would in all probability shock most individuals.

The person who impressed such love from the folks of Lawndale was a person referred to as Mike, who quietly lived on Hawthorne Boulevard between one hundred and sixty fifth and 166th streets for about 30 years. He was a homeless man.

At age 56, Gerardo Michael Juarez—Mike’s full identify—died close to the curb the place he lived.

Candles, Flowers, & Notes from Gerardo Michael Juarez vigil

Afterward, in keeping with the Day by day Breeze article, greater than 2,000 folks signed a petition to erect a plaque in Mike’s honor and, in keeping with one other Day by day Breeze article by Mazza, a couple of hundred folks gathered for a vigil, leaving flowers and notes at his camp in entrance of the USA Gasoline Station.

Mazza wrote that it was when Mike didn’t come into the gasoline station for his morning espresso that apprehensive employees on the station discovered him lifeless, “mendacity over the big ornamental rocks separating the station from the sidewalk. Deputies stated his sister was notified of his demise…”

That sister is Common Cargo’s Govt Coordinator, Finance Gina Jackson.

“I attempted to get him to return house with me,” Gina stated of her brother, “however he wouldn’t even budge. He would simply say, ‘I’m okay.’”

The way in which Gina describes her older brother and hero as a child, there’s no method anybody may have predicted he would find yourself dwelling on the road.

Gerardo Michael Juarez as a child

Gerardo Michael Juarez as a toddler

“Rising up I can nonetheless keep in mind Michael’s smile…. you possibly can see it in his eyes. He all the time smiled along with his eyes…. I nonetheless keep in mind Michael being the good brother ever! He was a threat taker, an ideal athlete, fast on his toes, and he exemplified management qualities that have been far above his friends.

“… he would experience his bike… get some momentum and earlier than you knew it, Michael was standing on his seat along with his arms to the sky with a HUGE grin on his face simply having a blast! Michael was all the time taking a threat… he was very good, and nobody messed with Michael rising up. He performed soccer… and his abilities have been plain… he was really superb at it as a result of he was so fast and had no concern….

Gerardo Michael Juarez

Gerardo Michael Juarez

“Michael was a pacesetter and a world changer who had the most important coronary heart and needed the most effective for everybody. He didn’t put up with bullies nor was he a person that may benefit from you; he was a person of loyalty and love, however one incorrect resolution in his life and being on the incorrect place on the incorrect time altered the course of his life ceaselessly….”

For the Lawndale neighborhood, why Mike was camped on Hawthorne in entrance of the gasoline station was a thriller. Based on Mazza’s articles there have been tales folks created to elucidate Mike’s presence there, together with him secretly being a millionaire with a house on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, having misplaced his household in a tragic automotive accident, and being a Vietnam Warfare vet who got here house scarred with Publish Traumatic Stress Dysfunction (PTSD).

Mike’s greatest buddy rising up, Dennis Rigdon, helps dispel these myths that develop into one thing of a legend surrounding Mike:

“Someday throughout Freshman/Sophomore yr at Hawthorne Excessive, he moved to Hawaii to reside along with his mother.

“The subsequent time I noticed him, a number of years later, he was not the identical Mike. His mind had clearly been scrambled. When requested about what occurred in Hawaii, his solely response can be “unhealthy medication” as he shook his head. He by no means served within the navy as you’ve been advised. And was positively method too younger to have fought in Vietnam. It’s attainable that he had some kind of PTSD, but it surely wasn’t from the warfare.

“He by no means married or had a household to lose.”

Whereas Dennis needed to clear away all of the false tales about Mike, he would in all probability additionally need to make it clear that Mike wouldn’t have simply thrown his life away on medication both. Mazza quotes Dennis as saying about Mike, “I heard from a man who stayed in contact with him that somebody slipped him unhealthy acid in Hawaii. Mike was not a drug man.”

Sadly, even that story is rumour, and no one appears to know precisely what occurred to Mike in Hawaii. Nevertheless, Dennis is correct about Mike not being a drug man.

Gina stated Mike didn’t need to take the remedy his mother and father tried to present him for the continual and worsening psychological sickness Mike was affected by after his return from Hawaii as a result of the remedy made him really feel bizarre.

“… as I bought older,” Gina stated, “he bought worse, and he merely forgot who I used to be… I might politely remind him, however he simply gave me a grunt and smiled along with his eyes and simply let me do the speaking as a result of now Michael was a person of few phrases.”

It wasn’t solely his members of the family Mike couldn’t keep in mind however his associates additionally.

“He was one of many final folks I noticed earlier than delivery off to Primary Coaching myself in 1980,” Dennis stated. “At the moment, Mike was having an actual onerous time discovering a spot in productive society. I misplaced observe of him after that for the subsequent 10-15 years.

“When I discovered him once more, he was dwelling at his spot on Hawthorne Blvd and 166th. I might cease to speak to him every time I used to be within the space, all the time hoping that seeing me, his greatest childhood buddy, would make him snap out of it. Sadly, most instances he acted like he couldn’t keep in mind me.

“One time, my sister Daybreak and I finished to go to him. He lit up after we began speaking in regards to the previous soccer taking part in days. However, sadly, he shortly went again into his shell.”

Gerardo Michael Juarez camped daily in front of USA Gasoline in Lawndale courtesy of the Daily Breeze.

Gerardo Michael Juarez camped each day in entrance of USA Gasoline in Lawndale courtesy of the Day by day Breeze.

Amazingly, even in his shell, Mike managed to brighten the lives of the folks of the Lawndale neighborhood and convey out the most effective in them. By all accounts, Mike hardly ever spoke and didn’t beg. Nevertheless, folks from the neighborhood would nonetheless give him meals, clothes, and blankets.

“He initiated one thing in us to present,” Linda Birmingham was quoted as saying in Mazza’s article about Mike’s vigil. “He woke up one thing in every of us, a humanitarian sort of emotion. He by no means stood exterior with an indication asking for assist. I used to be taken by his helplessness and innocence.”

Maybe it was these eyes that Gina described Mike smiling with that moved folks so. A pair folks Mazza quoted in that article talked about his eyes:

Maritza Hernandez was quoted as saying, “I’d inform him my issues, like my boyfriend was mad at me. He’d hear however by no means say something. I’d inform him, ‘You’ve probably the most lovely blue eyes,’ and he’d smile a bit of bit. I really like him.”

Annette Hudson was quoted as saying, “I might convey him Christmas treats and rotisserie rooster. He would by no means say a phrase. He would simply have a look at me along with his eyes, as if to say: ‘Thanks.’ ”

Many individuals by no means have a look at a homeless individual twice or keep away from taking a look at them altogether. Nevertheless, taking a look at Mike made neighborhood members collect collectively and musicians—together with Gina Jackson in a worship band—play for a luncheon and fundraiser to finance erecting a plaque in a single homeless man’s honor.

Practically $2,000 of the $3,000 it should take to erect the plaque has been raised on

The story shines a highlight on the homelessness downside in Los Angeles county. Based on the BBC, there are 57,794 homeless folks in L.A. County, a 23% improve from 2016.

However in any metropolis, there are homeless folks. If all of us took a second to have a look at one, being beneficiant with a bit of meals, clothes, a blanket, or simply our time, we could discover ourselves feeling like so many within the Lawndale neighborhood who met  Mike—like we’ve simply met an angel.

There’s an previous biblical verse, Hebrews 13:2, which reads, “Don’t forget to indicate hospitality to strangers, for by so doing a little folks have proven hospitality to angels with out figuring out it.”

Mike was repeatedly referred to as or in comparison with an angel in Mazza’s articles.

“We had no concept that [Mike] touched so many lives,” Gina stated. “Phrases can’t categorical how grateful my mother and I are after all of the fantastic issues that have been stated about Michael… [He] grew to become an Angel to a metropolis and nonetheless continued to convey out the most effective in everybody. It’s humorous, despite the fact that he didn’t do it in a traditional method, he nonetheless grew to become a world changer!”

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