Real Michiana: Brushstrokes to a better path
MISHAWAKA, Ind. -- If you've ever driven near Ironwood and Lincolnway or by the McDonald's on Grape Road, there's a good chance you've seen a homeless man sitting on the corner painting. In this edition of Real Michiana, he shares how he ended up there.
“I wake up in the morning, I feel like it’s a good day. It doesn’t even matter what happens. I’m blessed. I’m alive. I’m above ground," said 60-year-old Danny Bright, who's been homeless multiple times throughout his life.
Just a few months ago, Danny was working and living in a house.
“I had a van that a gentleman was kind enough to give me, and the van broke down on me, and it’s about a six mile walk back and forth to work...I have COPD and my breathing’s bad, so I couldn’t make the walk anymore, so I just decided to do arts and crafts. That’s always been my passion," he said.
Pretty much every day, Danny sits either at the corner of Ironwood Drive and Lincolnway East or in the parking lot near the McDonald's on Grape Road.
He displays his paintings next to a sign requesting a $30 donation in exchange for one.
“Since I started painting, it’s like I’ve seen the world through different eyes," he said.
That's how Danny wants everyone to see the homeless--through different eyes.
“I’m going to say 90% of people that look at someone homeless...They think this guy’s probably not homeless, and they probably think this guy’s a damn drunk or this guy’s a drug addict or this guy’s this or this guy’s that," he said.
Danny says that some homeless people are what people think.
He's battled drug addiction since he left the Marine Corps in the '70s, and he's also had a couple stints in prison.
“But there are people out there...that are in their position maybe because of something that happened in their life," said Danny.
His mom, with whom he lived and cared for, died not too long ago.
"Life isn’t fair, and there are some out here that are trying to do something," he said.
His "something" is earning money through painting, which also gives him a profound sense of pride.
"I look at that and I think to myself, wow I actually did that. And that’s what I want kids to think," said Danny.
He says he's working with a pastor in the hopes of creating an art class for kids--kids that could have used help--like him.
He hopes the workshop would provide a blank canvas for life lessons that he's learned the hard way.
“I’ll be 61 next year, and I can take everything I own and pack it up and carry it on my back down the road...but what I’m living for is to...hopefully to keep kids out of the streets, out of the gangs, and off the drugs and ruining their lives like I did mine, that’s what I’m living for," said Danny.
Danny wants to thank everyone who has donated to him as well as the man who originally bought him his paints and canvases.
He says most of the money he earns goes toward buying new supplies.
If you'd like to submit a nomination for our next Real Michiana feature, you can email Jess at firstname.lastname@example.org.