Breaking News
More () »

God kept waking me up: A story of redemption on one Atlanta street

"Now I still cry because I realize why."

ATLANTA -- His story is an inspiration and tangible proof that things change for the better no matter how far you think you've fallen.

On every corner, there's a reminder of where Ben Graham came from. Those same places remind him just how far he's come.

"I quit school four quarters shy of a degree," Ben said.

He never imagined he'd make many more mistakes that would ultimately make the street his home.

“I wanted stardom, I wanted to become famous as a rapper,” he said.

The lure of money and fame was strong, but he failed to find success in music or the business he started.

"I made a decision, a mistake that I would try to save my business and one of the guys that I was producing in the music business was a crack dealer,” he said. "I made a mistake and got into the world of drugs."

Ben then began to use the drug himself and addiction left him living beneath I-85. There were arrests, desperate day jobs and an accident put him in a wheelchair.

"At one point, my prayer was God please don't wake me up tomorrow,” he said. “Please don't wake me up."

That chair would be the very thing to help him rise.

"I took that wheelchair and I put a cooler in that wheelchair and put chips on top of that wheelchair, and walked around downtown into the barbershops selling snacks," Ben said.

Just like that, Bigmouth Ben was born. He sold goods and advertised for others through word of mouth. And, eventually, he upgraded his wheels to a bike. But addiction remained a constant struggle.

"I knew that, that it had to be more to life than this and I had a conversation with God,” he said. “He said I promise to love you wherever you want to be. If you want to be under the bridge, I'll love you under the bridge. If you want to go to prison, I'll love you in prison, but it's up to you where you want to be loved."

Ben chose life.

Today, Ben owns his own business - a convenience store along the same street he used to walk during his lowest points in life.

He never stopped through a recovery program or even the sudden loss of his mom just as he was beginning to meet his goals.

"Even today, there's still a lot of regret because I wish had more sober years with mom," Ben said.

But he refuses to let that feeling define him or keep him from helping others.

"It's rough being out here,” Ben said. “I'll put it like that."

Johnny works at Ben's store. It keeps him away from trouble in the streets. He sees in Ben who he hopes he can be.

"I want the old Johnny back, not this one,” he said. “I want to get back to my family members. I want to get back driving my car. I have a girlfriend out of town that I miss so bad. I want my life back."

Ben understands. He said it's why God placed him here on Auburn Avenue.

"He kept waking me up and now I still cry because I realize why He kept waking me up,” he said.

All around are reminders of the road he's traveled - a journey proving to others they can move beyond their obstacles too.

"I realize what my purpose is," Ben said.

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out