1. Tell us a bit about yourself, where you are from, your family, and your hobbies.
I am a SoCal native, born in Los Angeles and moved to Pasadena when I was 6. I have been here ever since. I am a product of Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) and Pasadena City College (PCC). I’ve been married to my wife, Ana Maria, for 22 years and we have a 19-year-old daughter, Daniella, who is currently attending PCC.
I love creating! Everything about me ties into creativity. I love cooking because it is creative. I love to shop. Have you seen what I wear? Creative. I love to write. My friends and I have a trans-media company, Pitch Block, creating motion pictures, television, motion comics, animation and video games. I love storytelling and the power of media and have loved comics, film and television since I was a child. I truly believe Christ would use these mediums if He was walking the Earth today!
2. What are your life passions? What journey does God have you on?
I believe the journey God has me on is one of hope, to be a source of hope and comfort to others. A friend once said to me, “Eric, you’re an anchor for others. But the funny thing about anchors is that they get dragged through the mud.” That is the story of my life.
I come from such an unusual family. While my father was running from God, his mother was a deaconess and Sunday School teacher and his brothers were some of the original members of the legendary Mighty Clouds of Joy (a gospel group). While my mother was running to God, her father practiced witchcraft and her mother was into new age practices way before it was popularized in the 80′s. Both of my parents come from divorced homes. My dad had to experience the painful divulgence that his father was a polygamist and later, a childhood with an abusive step-father. My parents met in high school; my mom became pregnant with me and my folks got married. I was born and then it seems all Hell broke loose.
My father, at the time a law enforcement officer, was verbally and physically abusive at home. I was told I was an accident, retarded and would never amount to anything. I was beaten with a police baton and metal shoe stretchers. I can so relate to the movie “Precious.” My life wasn’t far from that. I was frail and looked so different from everyone else. I longed to be “normal.” I was molested by another man as a teenager. And yet in spite of all that, here I am, a living example of what God, his Word and His loving people can bring you through.
3. Do you have a word for the mentors?
If there is a scripture that sums up my life, its 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
Because people comforted me in my sufferings I am compelled by God to do the same for others. I have dedicated the past 32 years of my life to doing just that. Which is why I am at LACF, working with teens others would normally give up on. I owe a wonderful debt to God and the people he used to reach me: my mother, my grandmother, Nellie Proctor – my Sunday School teacher, Beth Wells – my 5th grade math teacher, Pastor James Henry, Tommy McMullins, Phil Madden, Dover McCoy, Del Yarbrough. These are the mentors who saw the diamond in the coal, who loved me when I saw myself as hopeless and worthless.
Mentors made the difference in my life. I hope that every mentor would let those Scriptures become their anthem – Comfort others in the same way you were comforted by God through others. Let that comfort overflow onto the kids you engage. Don’t be moved by the exterior. Ask God to help you see His value, His purpose and destiny in that child. Sometimes it can be thankless, after all, you’re dealing with kids who live in the now. The light doesn’t come until later.
I recently had the opportunity to run into one of those men who did this for me all those decades ago. I grabbed him, held him for the longest time and tearfully told him, “You saved my life! I want you to know that the thousands of teens and people I’ve reached, the man that I am, the husband and father I’ve become, you did that!”
So mentors, please, don’t give up! Those kids need you. I need you. This city needs you. I currently sit on the PUSD Drop-Out Task Force and everyone at that table agrees that mentors, quality people like yourselves, are a huge part of the solution!
I encourage you to fight the good fight and finish the course. You never know how many Eric Johnsons your kindness, compassion and long-suffering will produce.