A teenager praying over a homeless man in Baltimore has gotten national attention after a photo of the incident went viral last week.
Eric Gaines, a police officer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, was standing at a bus stop on Saratoga and Paca Street on the afternoon of March 1, when a teenage boy, around the age of 15 or 16, stopped to pray over a homeless man.
In awe, the 35-year-old officer snapped a photo of the moment and posted it on Facebook, where he goes by the alias "Jonathan A. Stormz." A week later, the photo has gone viral — it has been shared by more than 32,000 accounts.
Gaines, who lives in East Baltimore, has patrolled the area for the past three years and said he recognized the homeless man who was sleeping nearby the bus stop. The officer watched as many people walked by, some patting the man, but it was the teenage boy who decided to take it to a spiritual level.
“He walked over to him and just knelt down and put his hands down on his foot," Gaines said.
The boy began to pray.
"I thought it was an amazing sight. I had to take a picture of it. It was extremely powerful," Gaines said.
People who had been walking with the young man held the bus for him, and minutes later, the teenager ran to the bus and was gone.
“He didn’t do it for any accolades or any praise. … I didn’t get a chance to say anything. I wanted to say something to him,” Gaines said. “But it was just as if he did what he had to do and left.”
Gaines called the act a powerful gesture, something people should see.
“It was good to see a young black man, especially in this community, doing something positive,” Gaines said. “That’s why I took the picture. It was powerful on so many levels, and for it to be in my presence — it was crazy.”
Gaines said people from all over the country have shared the photo, including a person from Oregon who contacted him to thank him.
“I said ‘It wasn’t me. It was the young man that did all work!” Gaines said.
Despite going viral, the identity of the young man has not yet been revealed. There has only been speculation, Gaines said, but he hopes to find out who he is. And, most of all, he hopes the young man has seen the Facebook post and realized how many people he has touched.
“It's been a blessing," Gaines said. "I hope he continues on that path and continues to be a leader and role model for young black men.”