The Mountain


Photo by Hannah Burton

There are struggles, then there are mountains.

His name was Reggie, and he was wearing three hats, the coolest pair of sunglasses I’ve ever seen, and two coats when I met him. I was with my travelling companion, and boyfriend, and we were studying the Atlanta bus map, searching for a new adventure to go on. He walked right up and started chatting away about all the different bus routes that’ll take you where you want to go—and the fastest route. Accompanying us to the bus station, Reggie told his story.

He was from New Orleans, born and raised. It was his home all the way up until the devastating Hurricane Katrina hit and ripped his home to shreds. He had nothing; Katrina washed away the jobs just as easily as she washed away the houses. He was a chef “back in those days”, as he called them, but all the shops, restaurants, everything was gone. He had no savings—his biggest regret, he said.

No money, no job, no home, no family. What’s a guy to do? Well, I wouldn’t know. He never got into how he ended up in good ole Atlanta, Georgia, and I didn’t have the sense to ask. I wish now that I had bothered to ask more questions—rookie mistake. Reggie went on to tell me about the homeless shelter, his current living quarters, and so on and so forth. It’s a common thing really, to have the homeless people talk about the shelter, to attempt to solicit sympathy from us home-livers. And should Reggie have given me that same spew, well, I sure wouldn’t be writing about him right now.

Reggie is the most positive homeless person I have ever met. I sat down with him on the bus station bench and listened to the story he unfolded for me.

“You know when people say they’ve hit rock bottom?” he asked me. I nodded my head in response. “Well, I’d wager to say 90% of the people that say that have no clue what rock bottom even is.” He took a breath to laugh at his own joke, exposing his creamed-corn-colored smile. “I didn’t even know what rock bottom was until I was well below it. You see, that’s the trick. There is no rock bottom—it’s really a bottomless pit. But that’s okay, did you know? Because I’ll get back up there, I know I will.”

He paused a moment, sighing hopefully. I opened my mouth to speak some clichéd words of encouragement, thinking it could be my words making an impact on him. Oh boy was I wrong. But before I could get a word out, Reggie beat me to it.

“Do you know what a mustard seed is?”

I was perplexed for a moment, what an odd question. “Sure,” I said.

He held up his fingers less than a centimeter apart. “It’s about this big,” he said as he gestured. “Do you know what God says about the mustard seed?” he asked, looking at me. I shook my head no. “He says, if you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.” I learned that way back in ‘those days.’ Or at least I thought I did. I understood the words, not the message. Let me ask you something young lady,” he always called me young lady, “Young lady, what do you think the mountain is?”

I took a moment to think. “Is it the non-Christians? Like, if you have even a little bit of faith you can sway the non-believers, shine in the light and what not, right?” It was a shot in the dark, but my answer didn’t even matter—I was invested in Reggie’s answer to the question.

Reggie chuckled, “I thought that too, young lady, until I hit rock bottom. Then you know what I thought? I thought maybe the mountains were the circumstances we were placed in. I guess you could say I have quite a mountain to climb.”

We both laughed, but it was cut short by Reggie’s next sentence.

“But, young lady, that’s not the mountain either. You know what the mountain is?”

I shook my head.


He paused for a moment. “You, you are the mountain. You are your own mountain, and with the faith of God, with the faith of a mustard seed, you can overcome that mountain. You are your greatest enemy, the ultimate of critics, and you will tear yourself down. But who you are is not where you are, or the circumstances you’re in. You can overcome it all with the help of God. You can do anything with the help of God, and I truly believe that if it be the will of God, he will help me climb my mountain, and I can be back on top.”


I took his words to heart that day—and every day since. There are struggles and then there are mountains, but every now and then I remind myself to take a step back and see if any of those problems, any of those mountains, are actually me. We have an abundance of strength inside ourselves if we only look deep enough—enough strength to move that mountain.