When I first began helping the displaced community through Light My Spirit, I didn’t want to take photos of the homeless community. I felt it would be perceived as an invasion of privacy or a form of exploitation, and I didn’t want any part of that. My mission was to help in any way I could and while usually I try to incorporate my gifts, I struggled with how I could do that for this mission. So initially, I started helping by cooking, setting up, serving meals and sometimes even playing the bongos.
Through the year we met hundreds of displaced people. Mostly men but many women with children. I heard many of their stories on our visits. They were all quite unique circumstances.
After some months of getting to know many of them, they started to request that I take their photo. That was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t think twice of it, I simply positioned them under some decent light and took their portrait. They straightened up and smiled when I was ready for them. Afterwards, they’d have a look at my camera screen to see what they looked like and, while smiling, they’d ask if others would see it. They didn’t ask that because they didn’t want others to see it but because… they wanted to be seen, they wanted to be heard. That day I checked myself and my perspective changed.
I began personally asking if they wanted their portrait taken. It became my way of honoring the beauty in them no matter their circumstances.
Unfortunately, homelessness and hunger is not a problem we alone could solve but while we were present, serving them meals, they shared with us how grateful they were for not only the food but for our time. For talking with them. Listening to them share bits of their stories.
Someone once said that they believe humans, more than anything, want to be heard. It’s a form of love and compassion. I believe that.
He was the first to ask me if I would take his photo.
She had seen me play the bongos on a previous occasion and this time, she asked if she could play. She was just thrilled to play some of her beloved latin music for us.
We met the gentleman on the right on one of our winter visits. He shared then how he used to teach bongos and wish he had a set he could play. He offered to teach me some patterns and we played while the food was being served. You could not only see the joy but you could feel it while they played.
He said, “take my picture.”
This pair asked if I’d take their photo. As they looked around and carefully snuggled up for the photo, they talked about how they watched and cared for each other every day. They melted my heart.
They have all brought more gratitude to my life. What a great gift.