Cross Man inspires faith

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Jose “Cross Man” Jara hand-crafts several custom crosses to leave out in the community. (Courtesy photo)

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When the pandemic hit, fear, helplessness and hopelessness spread like a wildfire. Local resident Jose Jara opted to spread faith for a better future throughout Winters — one hidden, homemade cross at a time.

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Jose “Cross Man” Jara and his son Joseph and wife Sylvia hold a pair of his hand-made crosses. (Aaron Geerts/Winters Express)

To tell this story, we need to rewind to 2020 when everybody was isolated within their homes. Depending on the person, they either developed habits or hobbies. Jara chose the latter and quickly developed a fascination with woodworking. More specifically — making small, wooden crosses.

Jara’s quality of work wasn’t initially up to his standards, but he got better and began gifting them to friends and family. With adoration and affirmation of his craftsmanship, Jara decided to expand his gift giving.

“About two months after COVID started is when I started leaving the crosses outside. At first I was just giving them to family members and friends, but I felt like I needed to do more. There was a lot of people struggling or going through a hard time, so I just put these out there for people to know that there’s more faith, and to have faith basically,” Jara said. “I’ve gotten so many messages that there’s no way I could put a price on this. People have texted me, ‘I was going through a hard time, I was walking and came across your cross and it just motivated me.’ Like, how could I put a price on that?”

To date, Jara has created and hidden around 200 crosses, which means 200 lives have been impacted, and perhaps even more smiles have crossed faces. Needless to say, Jara’s made quite the impact on the town. So much so, in fact, that he’s even acquired the nickname, “The Cross Man.” To Jara, it started out as a joke, but he took a liking to it and it’s now transitioned into the name of his Facebook page.

As far as inspiration goes, money has nothing to do with it. Jara, it seems, is just one of those passionate individuals who serves others without need or want of money. Sometimes — rather, most of the time — it’s the gratitude one receives in return that’s worth more than any monetary value. Quite simply explained by Jara, he felt like he “just had to do it.”

While the cross is a religious symbol, in no way is Jara trying to impose it upon recipients. Regardless of the symbol or religious affiliation, it’s more of the thought, and the faith in hope that Jara is passing along to whomever may find his craftwork.

“That’s the thing, I don’t say, ‘do you want a cross?’ Because I don’t want to force my religion, my belief in any way. You may be with it, or may not, but I don’t want to push that on you,” said Jara, “If you find a cross and like it, you’re more than welcome to take it home. If not, leave it there for somebody else.”

According to Jara, it takes him about two days to make a cross. From sanding down the wood to painting the cross and gluing finishing touches together, the Cross Man creates about six crosses to hide per week. This all on top of a career that requires a 3 a.m. wakeup call. Of course, making this passion project all-the-sweeter is the fact that most of Jara’s materials are donated. Monetary donations, however, are not what Jara asks for from the community.

“It’s pretty amazing, just walking around town people recognize him. People will stop and say ‘hi,’ and him just being, ‘the Cross Man’ makes conversation,” said Jara’s wife Sylvia. “That’s what I love about Winters is people aren’t afraid to stop and talk to you. Whereas, if you go to another town they may not. They might walk right past you.”

Since Jara began his project, he’s been showered with affirmation and gratitude for his efforts. From social posts to hand-written letters, Winters is beyond proud of its Cross Man and the hope he inspires.

“When I found my cross it was at a time that I needed a reminder of God’s grace and his love for us all,” said Alison Hapworth-Eldridge after finding one of Jara’s crosses in front of Steady Eddy’s Coffee House. “Thank you Jose, for your kind generosity to our little community of Winters. The Cross Man really seems to know when and where to place his gifts of his incredible handmade symbols of faith.”

To keep in touch with the Cross Man, follow him on Facebook by searching “The cross man.” And if one is lucky enough to stumble upon one of Jara’s creations, you’ll know it’s his because the following message will be attached to the cross:

“God has a purpose for your pain. A reason for your struggle and a reward for your Faithfulness. Trust in him and never give up! Amen! You may take me home free if you promise to give me a good home!”

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