I love to play basketball. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to play not only with good players, but with a few professional players as well. This experience hasn’t made me a pro-caliber player; however, it has helped me to realize my potential as a player. I’m not in the physical condition of my youth, but my improved understanding of the game has made me a better player than when I could jump above the rim.
Being around the best in a field will help us learn. On the flip side, when we reach out to help others, more often than not, we are blessed at least as much as they are.
Learning Can Come from All Directions
I have photographed the homeless in downtown Atlanta and heard them pray for the wealthy people in the suburbs. They’re worried that wealth may cripple the hearts of the rich and harm their relationships with others. They’re not praying for handouts; they are praying for people’s hearts.
I’ve served dinner at an overnight shelter to men who are homeless — yet they have jobs at places like UPS. They send their paychecks to their families, where the money is needed even more.
I’m not sure if I could make some of the sacrifices these homeless heroes are making. Just being around these people teaches me a lot.
Some of my neighbors are from Bosnia, Croatia, Chili, Jamaica, Kenya and Mexico. One family, from Croatia, had to pack in the middle of the night, leave everything they owned and flee from danger — not just once, but twice.
Another neighbor, having already escaped the war and living safely in the United States, returned to Bosnia to help his family and friends in the war raging in his home country. Now, back in the U.S., he spends his time in a wheelchair with a bullet in his back from that war. Last year his wife suffered a heart attack and died.
Just living around these immigrant neighbors teaches me so much about sacrifice. Their determination to make a better life for their children is astounding.
Expanding and Maintaining Connections
As a photojournalist, I have had the opportunity to meet so many people and hear their stories. It has given me a better perspective on life.
Another way I have been able to expand my relationships is through education. Formal education in the classroom forced me to learn about subjects I would have never encountered had the classes not been required. What I gained from my educational experience is the desire to continue learning.
Reading biographies helps me to discover how a person was changed through time and experiences. The Internet helps me connect with many people and reconnect with friends from the past.
Our oldest son went off to college this year. Through the Internet and his cell phone, he was able to remain connected to many of his high school buddies. This is a major change from when I left for college. Then, with no Internet or cheap long-distance phone service, we ended up severing ties with many of our friends.
I’m learning that in order to improve my game, I need to reach up to those who are further along than me — but also out to those alongside me, and down to those who may need my help. I’ve also learned that when I reach down, I’m often really reaching up.
Reach out and get connected. It can change your life.
[tags]photography advice [/tags]