Ray Padre Johnson

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Ray Padre Johnson served as a medic in the Vietnam War. He worked as a cowboy on ranches in Wyoming’s Wapiti Valley, and discovered his love of painting. He spent a dozen years traveling the world, living in 159 countries, where he ate with people, danced with them, and got to know them. Padre painted the portraits of more than 500 people from that experience and assembled them into a book called Journeys with the Global Family.

“Our responsibility is to pass on the good and enjoy each individual.”

The last time I was in Harlem, on my journey around the world, I told my cab driver, “Leave me off at this corner.” He looked at me like I was from another planet. He said, “I can’t do this. I think you’re probably the only white man around this area.” I said, “Leave me off.” I had already been through the Vietnam War and I had been through about 85 percent of my journey around the world. I was comfortable.

I was standing on the corner and immediately I was surrounded by four men, of a different color.

I said, “Gentleman, I am a real-life cowboy from Wyoming and I’m down here just to enjoy you and to learn. If you don’t mind, I’d like to hang around.”

“Are all cowboys like you?”

“No. We all wear a different fingerprint. I’m an artist, also, and from my view, you’re all wearing a different color, a different nose shape, a different eye shape, forehead, cheekbones. I see us all as uniquely different, but similar. No one will ever look like you again. Or think like you. You’re that important.”

“We have a bunch of friends, would you come with us?”

The next thing, I’m with about 15 guys. I’m staying over night and eating with them. We were having fun laughing. Those endorphins were flowing and adding about three years to each one’s life. All over the world, everyone wanted me to stay because they could see I’m an explorer. I’m an adventurer. I’m always seeing worth inside of the next human being that is so different than anyone else, and yet, so similar.

Ray Padre Johnson short audio clip

Ray Padre Johnson full audio

Discussion Questions

  • What makes you unique? How do other people respond to that uniqueness?
  • Have you ever been in a dangerous or potentially dangerous place? What was that experience like? How did you handle it?
  • When was the last time you interacted with someone who was vastly different from you? What are some words you would use to describe that interaction?
  • How has travel been a part of your life? How has it changed your perspective?
  • When have you been “an instrument of acceptance, of goodness, of caring, of being there with your presence”?

3 comments

  1. Earl Lindquist

    Hi Ray__Not a day goes by when we are not traveling and at home in Minnesota that I do not think of you and our boyhood friendship because of your art that is framed and proudly displayed in our condo Our guests often inquire about the Global Family picture that hangs in our foyer for all who enter to view. We take great pride in sharing our knowledge of you, the artist. Our office also displays one of your early artistic successes – Early Morning Circle as well as a gift I received upon retirement from my colleagues of a cougar or panther that you painted later. That framed piece will be donated to Gideon Pond Elementary School eventually because the animal is the school’s mascot and I taught in the building for 24 years. Marilyn and I treasure your contribution to our art collection. Hopefully we can reconnect sometime in the near future because we are not getting any younger. Blessings to you, my longtime friend. Earl .

    Like

  2. Duane Dittmer

    Padre,
    Just was dusting off some of your prints that I have and wondered if you were still kickin. I was the recruiter for the Naval Reserve in Billings whene you were drilling. Hope you are well.

    Like

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