Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Lesson Learned

Generally I am a person who likes to keep to himself. “I bother no one and no one bothers me” tends to be my philosophy. I am most certainly not saying that I am a snob or that I see myself as better than anyone else because that is not the case but I suppose that some people would probably see me as “standoffish.” I have to thank a friend of mine who brought this to my attention. Friends have a way of saying things and wisdom would dictate that a wise person pays heed to the opinions of those that are close to them. I have tried to overcome that stigma of being standoffish by responding to strangers with a little more openness and I think that I have had some success in interacting with them.

The other day, while shooting some photographs on a bridge in a small town in Ontario, Canada, a ruffled old man called out to me to ask me what I was doing. Now normally, I would answer in a short curt manner and move on my way. I probably wouldn’t be totally forthright with him and probably would have not told him exactly what I was doing but today I decided to move beyond my level of comfort and actually be somewhat friendly to him.

“I am taking some photographs.” I responded. “Can I take one of you?”

After making sure I was not a newspaper reporter, he allowed me to take a couple of shots. I further told him that I was taking pictures for the Internet and would I be able to use his photograph. He seemed pretty pleased as he gave me his permission.

I have a friend who works in the area where the photo was taken and upon me recounting this story to her as well as describing him to her, she instantly recognized him as an old fellow named Randy. “Randy,” she said, “is a homeless man.” Now judging from the way he was dressed, I could see how he could very well be that. His clothes were mismatched and well worn, his shoes were tattered and his hair unkempt. Judging from the bag he was carrying, it appeared to me that he carried the total sum of his belonging in it. My friend further told me that he was currently staying in this temporary housing shelter but would soon be evicted as he had been there the allowable maximum amount of time.

Homeless people are unfortunately often seen as “lower class” with social skills that would often drive people away from them … and yet he was friendly, he was sociable and he was certainly not standoffish! I stood there for a few short minutes in conversation with Randy and I must say that it was one of the best conversations I had with a stranger in quite a while!

As I bid Randy “goodbye” and returned to my photography, I couldn’t help but look back and watch him make his way across the bridge. It felt good that I made his acquaintance. Randy will probably never remember me and neither will he probably ever know that he taught some “photographer guy” a lesson that day. I learned from him that I can learn lessons from people I don’t know and in places I don’t expect and become a better person for it. I may never see him again but I don’t believe I will ever forget him.

“Thanks Randy! … It was nice to make your acquaintance!”


Le Nightowl said...

Good lesson in life.
We can learn a lot from the most unexpected people :)
Now I would have problems asking people their permission to take their picture, as I'm awfully shy.
This is why I feel so comfortable with taking pictures of animals, Nature and architecture.

Janice said...

A touching story Dave...enjoyed this sure is true if ever we think we are above someone else life is quick to show how wrong we are.

Dave said...

Hi Marie!... Thanks for the comment. I would feel uncomfortable as well. I wouldn't have asked to take his picture if he hadn't approached me first. However, I am glad he did. Take Care!

Hi Janice!... I agree, we can learn all kinds of things from life itself. :-)

abbagirl74 said...

Loved the story. Shows us all a lesson that can be learned in life.

Josie said...

You know, Dave, in a perfect world, someone would read your story, see Randy's picture, and offer him a hand-up in his life. Anyone out there willing to do that? If not Randy, then someone else in Randy's situation. Ask not for whom the bell tolls...

We can all learn lessons from the most unexpected places, can't we?

Great photograph. There is a whole story in it as well.


Michelle said...

Excellent, an opportunity not wasted! It reminded of something that I wrote back in another lifetime.

Full Circle

When I was young....

I saw a bum
He wore dirty clothes
His shoes did not fit him
His beard was long
His face was worn
I saw a bum

I saw myself
My clothes were clean
My shoes were new
My hair was clipped
My face was fresh
I saw myself

When I was grown....

I saw a bum
His clothes had holes
His shoes had no soles
His hair was shaggy
His face was haggard
I saw a bum

I saw myself
My suit was tailored
My shoes were italian
My hair was trimmed
My face was tanned
I saw myself

When I was old....

I saw a bum
His clothes were worn
His shoes were cracked
His hair was grey
His face was mine
I saw myself...


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Insightful story. Life is about people. When I see those who are less fortunate, I always remind myself that "there but for the grace of God go I."

Once again, wonderful post. I think we all wish we had encountered Randy.

arevik said...

hi dave! a very nice post on how rewarding it can be to stretch your comfort zone - very encouraging!

Becky Wolfe said...

Hmm, I felt a little bit of self evaluation here too because I wouldn't consider myself a people person & often give those one word responses & hope they carry on but, I have been learning not to be so closed to strangers as well. What an excellent experience you had meeting Randy!