Richard Gere is a Hollywood legend, at one time the biggest and most recognizable male movie star in the world, but he managed to completely go unnoticed when in character as a homeless man sitting on the bustling sidewalks of New York City, reports Aplus.
Gere was filming scenes for his new movie, Time Out of Mind, in which he plays the role of a homeless father trying to rebuild his relationship with an estranged daughter.
Despite going on to the streets with no prosthetics or makeup to disguise his face, just some baggy clothes and a hat, the actor was not recognized for the Hollywood movie star he is by a single person.
An account of Gere’s humbling experience went viral after a photo was posted on an unofficial Richard Gere community Facebook page and attracted over a million likes and half a million shares.
The image was accompanied by a reflective and thoughtful quote from the actor explaining how the experience made him feel personally and how it is to be in the shoes of a homeless person even if for just for an hour.
Gere described the stark difference he felt in the ways he was perceived by passers-by, evident in projections and body language, as most walked on by without a second glance.
Those who did look at him offered only disdain. Speaking to People magazine Gere said, “I felt what it was like to be a homeless man. People would just past by me and look at me in disgrace.”
“It wasn’t about me; it was a perception about all of us that we tend to just skate along the surface of things. where I was in the street filled in spaces with an erroneous story.”
Gere felt the isolation and virtual invisibility that comes with living on the streets, telling People magazine of how despite being out on the sidewalk in character as homeless, sitting on cold concrete for over 40 minutes, not one person made eye contact with him.
In the entire time he spent on the streets, Gere said that only one person showed the kindness and consideration to give him something.
“Only one lady was kind enough to give me some food. It was an experience I’ll never forget. So many times we forget how blessed we are. We should not take that for granted. And if we can help someone in need, we should.”
The experience had a profound and moving effect on Gere, explaining that after filming was finished, he went back onto the streets to give food and $100 to every homeless person he saw.
Gere told of the touching and emotional reactions his random acts of kindness provoked, and offered moral instruction for others to not just talk about change, but enact it.
“They cried and were so grateful. Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Many cities in the Untied States deal with homelessness as a criminal rather than a social problem, and the 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress found that 578,424 people were homeless on any single night in America.
According to AHAR, 23 percent of the homeless individuals surveyed were under the age of 18, and of those children, 6,274 were unaccompanied.
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has advocated the value of preventative measures such as affordable housing, economic safety nets, health provision, and social support in stopping individuals, children, and families facing homelessness.
[Images via Cold Iron Pictures]