Reflection by Mike Sawyer
For some reason I
had been thinking of taking my "I Will Never Use Tobacco" and Tobacco
Death display over to the west side of Birmingham, Alabama.
April 17, the weather was divine in Birmingham, Alabama.
I loaded up my old
Dodge Caravan with signs, a large paint canvas drop cloth, black paint, and
some painting supplies.
I found an
desolate parking lot on the west side of Birmingham, and got out and painted
my 15' X 10' canvas with the message
Www.TobaccoDeath.com . The sun dried the freshly painted canvas quickly.
I threw the canvas
in the back of the van, and drove up to the busy intersection that I wanted
to work, but it was covered with African-American girls doing a fundraiser.
I located the school teacher/sponsor of these girls to seek her thoughts on
my individual volunteer work at this intersection. She kindly recommended
that I go down a few blocks to the Five Points West intersection. Out
of respect of this sponsor, I decided to leave.
I parked my van in
a mall parking lot at this famous Five Points West intersection. I believe
the intersection has 24 lanes divided by four streets.
I went in a
discount store to buy some safety pins that I needed to attached a SMOKING
KILLS basketball jersey to the back of my shirt. The young assistant manager
pinned the jersey on my back. Then she walked me up to the front check-out
counter and I discovered that the store didn't accept credit cards.
Amazingly, she pulled out money from under the cash drawer and said that
this money would cover my safety pins and bottle of water. What a blessing!
However, I humbly found some loose change in my pocket, paid for the pins
and put the cold water back in the cooler.
"Hell is going to be longer than you think," proclaimed the
African-American street corner preacher to his captive red-light audience,
as I walked up. This preacher had on a Jesus T-Shirt. His very physical
deliverance must have worn him down because he was gone pretty soon. (I
wondered if he had seen the Passion of Christ movie, I haven't).
I walked over to
another corner and started setting up my banners and signs. I thought how
valuable the hands of Bill Gates would be assisting me, as it was a
little frustrating to my years of poker playing patience to hang my
signs and banners on this kite flying day.
Pretty soon the
friendly waves and horns beeps of the estimated 95% African-Americans who
passed by helped my fears, doubts, and frustrations fade away.
A mother stopped
by with her handsome teen sons Josh and Ben. They took my invitation to
pledge "I Will Never Use Tobacco." This young mother shared while her sons
signed the banner that they were fatherless.
Just a little
later I noticed a Fox TV 6 van backing up in the adjacent bank parking lot.
The young TV reporter said that he had noticed me earlier and wanted to stop
and see what was going on, while he was setting up his camera tripod to
About the time
Matthew the reporter was leaving someone tossed out an encouraging one
dollar bill as they drove by.
In mid-afternoon a
man stopped on his bicycle, and began chatting with me about his smoking
habit. I shook Wayne's hand and listen to him tell me that he had been
smoking for a long time, but never had smoked in front of his mother or her
home. "Wayne that's really nice that you respect your mother that much," I
said to this 44-year-old man. He went on to tell me of having some cancer
removed from his body a few years prior.
I observed more
eating and cell phone talking in vehicles than smoking at this
rap music provided me free entertainment all day long from the clean and
dressed up vehicles.
Only one young man
tapped his horn and taunted his cigarette to me. My hand instantly waved
back with my head nodding to this upset smoker.
I look forward to
returning to this famous Birmingham intersection.