“Teaching Through Illustration.”
That’s what the man said. He said I would be teaching the virtues of Jesus Christ through illustration.
I’m thinking “How boring is this going to be?” doing book illustrations, maybe bible stories for children. Something akin to torture. I strongly doubted I was going to let that happen. I was determined it wouldn’t. I ran hard from this calling. Every time I had gotten involved with God on an intimate level I wind up hurting hard. I wound up loosing people I loved and I became despondent, irritable and aggravated and usually broke if not flat out broken. I have never found peace in God up to this point. All I found was hard times and bunch of folks who I felt were mean and took advantage of me.
At least that’s what I kept telling myself. But whatever it was I know I didn’t want anything to do with teaching, preaching or promoting Jesus in any way what-so-ever.
So I did what any self respecting denier of Jesus would do, I headed back to the streets.
Not having any desire to take any of this life very seriously, and having some artistic talent and more talent convincing others I had talent. After a crazy apprenticeship under a rat crap crazy shop owner, I began tattooing people for a living.
I wound up owning my own tattoo and piercing shops for the better part of thirty years.
But something happened in the process. At some point I began to realize that when people came into the tattoo shops they were coming in because they thought what God had given them was not good enough, and they wanted me to fix it. Of course it was impossible. I knew all I could do was make them worse. I felt guilty for trying. But if I didn’t do it, I knew that someone that could care less about them as one of God’s creatures would tattoo them and that would compound their problem even more. It made me angry that I felt responsible for them. “Why was their condition any of my concern”, was my question and my resentment. However I couldn’t deny what I felt for them. I saw every disappointment in their face and brow and heard every heartache they ever had in their voice. I still do.
They were hurting to the point they couldn’t feel emotionally anymore. Feelings and some way to deal with them had to be brought up in a new form. That was what they were really buying from me. Relief. It may have been the tattoo. It may also have been the way I talked to them. With love, compassion, empathy and respect. They may have felt the way I cared in my touch. Who knows for sure? Somehow I made differences in their lives. I not only tattooed the flesh, I tattooed the soul.
When a person gets a tattoo or some other kind of body modification there is this period of “acquisition” if you will. It is a period in which each person goes through an adjustment of how they are going to accept the modification be it a tattoo or whatever. In “most” case that individual will begin a process of negative and destructive thinking that grows existentially about themselves. This in part is why tattoos are said to be addictive. It is the perpetuation of the destructive self esteem. I became deeply saddened by the emotional pain of so many people. So desperate to get relief from emotional pain, they were willing to scar themselves for the rest of their lives. In some cases horribly, even beyond recognition. Not to mention the risk of infection and disease.
I have always stated that each life was so very precious. That each one of us was someone’s baby boy or baby girl. I want to treat you the same way I would want someone to treat my child.
That is the way I treated people when they came into my shops. Getting a piercing or a tattoo in my shop was not automatic. I made it difficult as a rule. I did this so that I could have time to change your mind, more to the point to change your heart, and convince you that there may be another way.
If all else failed and it was obvious that you were hell bent and determined to get a tattoo then I would do it. And in that time I would take the opportunity to explain to you how precious, how special and unique you are. I would go on to try my best to make you feel strong and important. I would do everything I could think of to make you feel like you mattered. Because you do.
I tried to tattoo someone with these things in my heart, moral wholesomeness, tasteful moderation, determination to do a good job for you. I took my time I did it with as gently as possible. I tried to stay humble.
People never forget their experience when they get a tattoo. And I used that time to teach people about the virtues of Jesus Christ through illustration.