Arts  /  August 20, 2019

Core Story: Solomon Johnson combining the power of art and prayer at The Core's Franciscan Center

Solomon for website.jpg

As anyone who visits our Instagram page knows, we are more dogged in digging out Core murals than a truffle hound seeking tartufo in Umbria. So when we heard about Solomon Johnson painting a mural on the stairwell at The Franciscan Center of Baltimore, in our Old Goucher neighborhood, we got in touch and he was kind enough to give us a bit of his time and show us what he was doing. As you can seefrom the picture, where he's explaining what's going to go into the completely unpainted section, he's only just begun. But it's already full of vibrant color and beautifully economical brush strokes. We asked Solomon how he came to be painting this mural and he said it was an offshoot of other volunteering that he's doing at The Franciscan Center, where he's helped with a variety of other activities. There certainly is a lot to do at The Franciscan Center, if you want to help. They are probably best known for their food program that includes Little Portion Farm and served 115,000 free meals last year. But they do a lot more than that.

For instance, there's a free clothing store, free computer classes, a lovely, new, little, library for kids, and free help in navigating stuff with the government, like trying to retrieve your birth certificate, which a lot of people are doing with a recent change in Maryland drivers licensing regulations.

We asked Solomon how he got started in his volunteer work there and he said he saw a woman unloading stuff one day, and nobody was helping her, so he offered to pitch in. Then when he found out about all they did at The Franciscan Center, he wanted to volunteer. Solomon said he was worried that they wouldn't take him because he's deaf, and a lot of organizations won't take deaf volunteers. Although, obviously we've heard about this kind of discrimination, it still seemed sort of shocking, because Solomon is an expert lip reader and a very articulate guy. So it's hard to think of a situation where his deafness would prevent him from helping an organization, and why anyone wouldn't want his help. And, indeed, he also volunteers now at St. Vincent de Paul Church on Front Street. He said he feels "blessed" to contribute to both places. We imagine the feeling is mutual.

Solomon drew our attention to where he'd written "Power of Prayer” at the lower right-hand corner of the mural. He put it there so people would see it first as they walk up the staircase. We asked him if that was written from personal experience, and he told us he prays every day and that he feels like it's having a positive effect. But like many people nowadays, he feels there's a lot of negativity in the world. And it's going to take more people than him to push things in a positive direction overall, so he was hoping people would take the message to heart, and give it a shot.

Of course, volunteering is another way to spread positivity. Here in The Core, The Franciscan Center and other organizations working to make the city a better place (from charities to community groups) are always waiting for another Solomon Johnson to come along. That could be you!

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