If You Could Keep One Thing

Ransom Riggs

If you could only keep one thing, what would it be? In a touching photo essay titled "What I Keep," photographer Susan Mullally asks homeless people in Waco, Texas that very question. Their answers, and portraits, are powerful. Here are a few of my favorites -- the rest are here.

And let us know in the comments: what would you keep?

Charles Rose - carpenter"¨, homeless

I was a librarian, I read more books than you can fit under the bridge. I like Chess and backgammon, they're intelligent games. I keep cards too and I don't play traditional games, I play pinochle. I play with another homeless person who's probably as well rounded as I am.
What it is, I'm 51 years old, I have four college degrees and I've been a carpenter for thirty years. I don't know, I just got to a point where I couldn't find anyone worth working for. This life becomes addicting because we're our own people. We got no boss hollering at us and we go where we want to go and we do what we want to do. All I have to do is eat and find a place to sleep. I got my cans and copper wire; granted, it's not the ideal life.
If someone gave me a million dollars I'd open another home for the homeless. I helped build My Brother's Keeper (Waco homeless shelter for men) but never spent a night there. With all my degrees, even though I don't use them, it's nice to have the knowledge.

James Royce Smith - disabled

This is a picture of me and my wife and this is what I keep. I lost her about a year ago. She stayed at Green View Manor. I always keep this. I'll keep it 'till something happens.

Tindall Herndon"¨ - homeless veteran

I keep my hat. I'm a Viet Nam Vet and I wear it to remember my brothers that died over there. It's a part of me. I wear it all the time. I wear it everyday.

W P Ratliff"¨ - retired engraver, homeless

I found this card and I cleaned it up and it's about new homes. It's old but it's still good. Out on Highway 59. Take this home phone and see if it's still good. New homes. It says Chris Boone. It's still good. New homes.
I retired; I don't work at all. I have to stay in Waco. I have to come back each month to get my money.

(In case you didn't quite get that -- it was a bit muddled -- Mr. Ratliff keeps a real estate agent's business card. Wow.)