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Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008 09:11 pm

Saving the world, one note at a time

After he was shot, Joshua Foster decided that it was time to make a difference

Untitled Document The first thing Joshua Foster did after his encounter with an armed robber was to call his sons’ daycare provider. “I’m gonna be a little late picking up the kids today,” he told her. “I’m not sure exactly how late — maybe very late — but I know I’ll be at least a little late, because I just got shot.”
Now, most people confronted by some crazy dude with a gun wouldn’t react by worrying about their babysitter. But, as you’ll see, Foster isn’t most people. The gunshot didn’t hurt him as bad as you’d think, Foster says. The wound looked like a cigarette burn, he recalls; at first, it didn’t even bleed. Focused on trying to track the robber’s getaway route from the MacArthur Boulevard currency exchange, Foster was standing in the parking lot, trying to tell the dispatcher which way the robber went, when somebody advised him, “Man, you oughta sit down.” Foster unhitched the tailgate of his truck and sat, then leaned back, and eventually lay down because, well, he wasn’t feeling so great.
But Foster also wasn’t feeling the kind of anger or outrage he thought he might after finding himself on the wrong end of a bad guy’s gun. Even at the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery to assess the damage the bullet had done, Foster forced the doctors and nurses to pause before slicing into his abdomen. “What do you call a dog with no legs?” he asked, and proceeded to tell them a joke. “People kept asking me, ‘Why are you so calm?’ But I didn’t ever feel that I was gonna die,” Foster says. In the days and weeks that followed, he found out a lot about the man who shot him. Gregory Lamar Hullum had, since the tender age of 12, been abusing alcohol and drugs — beer, scotch, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, PCP. To feed this habit, he committed a slew of violent crimes. In August 2006 he held up four fast-food restaurants; in November of that year he committed nine more armed robberies, not counting two at the currency exchange. During the lull between August and November, Hullum was either in poor health or in jail. And that wasn’t even the worst of it. Before his string of stickups, Hullum had been in prison for the 1987 home invasion and rape of a Lake Springfield woman — a crime he committed at the age of 18. At the time, Hullum’s own mother described him as a dullard and a liar, “untrustworthy and charming,” according to published reports.
But Foster also discovered a series of connections between himself and Hullum. A woman Foster knows well is married to a man who had socialized with Hullum on numerous occasions. The man who sold Hullum the .22-caliber handgun used against Foster is a former co-worker. Perhaps most bizarrely, when Foster, a reformed vegetarian, made the decision that eating meat was OK, it was a relative of Hullum’s who served him the first barbecue he had consumed in more than 10 years, at a downtown blues festival. That wasn’t all. “I could have easily been in the same boat as Gregory Hullum,” Foster says. Growing up with a single mom and a crew of troublemakers for friends, Foster spent his time skateboarding and hanging out at all-night raves. He graduated from Lincoln Community High School in the bottom quarter of his class. When he found himself so deep in trouble that he was facing the possibility of a felony conviction, he straightened up. His classmates must have seen some potential; they voted him Most Likely to Save the World.
Now 33, Foster works for Central Management Services, delivering mail to state agencies. Not exactly saving the world, you say?
Well, we’re just now getting to that. Foster was attending a music program at Harvard Park Elementary, where his oldest son, Elijah, attends preschool. As he watched, he found himself wondering: Which little boy was going to have to go to bed without supper? Which little girl was being abused? Which kid was going to turn out like Gregory Hullum? Foster decided that his son’s schoolmates deserve a chance to take what he calls “a different path.” He organized a group called The Revolution’s You, and launched a campaign to collect musical instruments for the kids. He also began planning a fundraiser for the school. An omnivorous music fan married to an artist, Foster is staging a day-long dual-stage music festival and silent art auction at Harvard Park on April 26.
The roster of bands already scheduled to play includes Jill Benoit, the Dharma Bums, the Damwell Betters, Southeast High’s Gospel Choir, and Tom Irwin. About 25 artists have agreed to donate pieces for the auction. Foster wants more, more, more. “It’s about raising money to help the school, but it’s just as much about helping the kids . . . have a positive experience and realize that music is more than what they see on MTV,” he says.
If you’re interested in donating a musical instrument or helping with the festival, check out Foster’s Web site, www.myspace.com/therevolutionsyou for details. It may be the only appeal you’ll get. “I’m not very good at asking for things,” Foster says. He’s the kind of guy who’s better at expressing gratitude, even toward the man who shot him. “If I met Gregory Hullum today,” Foster says, “I’d shake his hand and say thanks.”  

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com


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