Walking home from the Academy of Arts University in San Francisco on a cold autumn night in 2013, Pairoj Pichetmetakul passed a scene he’ll never forget.
On a nearly empty street in the SoMa district, Pairoj saw a young man beating a white-haired homeless man who appeared to be in his 70s. The attacker punched and kicked his victim, then sat on his chest and pummeled his face.
Pairoj wanted to help but fear held him back. He was new in the country, his English was poor, and he couldn’t call the police because his cell phone battery had died. So, he just walked home.
“I couldn’t sleep,” recalled the now-32-year-old artist, who goes by his first name. “I went back in the morning to find the old man but he wasn’t there.”
Three years earlier, Pairoj had been a saffron-robed monk living at the Wat Hua Krabue Buddhist temple near Bangkok, where he recalls trying to avoid stepping on insects while walking between his living quarters and the temple.
Why, then, didn’t he help the homeless man?
That question troubled him so deeply that he resolved to make amends the only way he felt he could—through his art. Thus began an artistic and social project he calls “The Positivity Scrolls.”
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