A Photographer looking at the BIG picture….
For me this has been an emotional roller coaster of a week and then add all of the Facebook “Terms of Service” drama that’s been going on and I am wiped. (See my blog post from yesterday) Why was it an emotional roller coaster of a week for me? Earlier this week I lost a very special friend to a dreaded disease but I had never actually met or spoken to this special friend – we had only for the last 5 years “Facebooked”. Rusty Roy was a long time and very loyal Facebook friend who was one of my 1st friends on Facebook when I made the big decision to return to the photo biz after a 6 year hiatus. He was kind and supportive and always had my back. I was heartbroken to hear that he had passed away this week when we had just communicated via Facebook on his birthday which was August 16th. My heart is sad but I have to thank Facebook for allowing me to connect with a kind soul that I would have never had the chance to connect to otherwise. And the fact that after he passed I received a few messages from his friends telling me that he loved my work and always spoke so highly of me – I was so humbled and my heart smiled when I heard that. Reality check #1
Yesterday in the midst of the storm about Facebook’s updated TOS (see my blog post from yesterday) I was madly blogging and responding to comments on Facebook when I just needed to get away from my desk. I thought a walk out to the mailbox might clear my head a bit. I live in a small “patio home” complex in Scottsdale that is gated and situated along an 18 mile bike path that borders one side of it. As I walked to the mailbox I looked over to one of the gates that is on the path and saw a man leaning up against one of the patio walls behind a tall hedge sound asleep. At least I was hoping he was sound asleep and not, well, dead. I thought to myself, “OMG – what should I do? I so want to take him food and water, but I am scared he will be a crazy guy and either hurt me or want something from me.” but the damage had been done, so to speak. I had seen him and in good conscience I had to do something, I had to do the right thing. He is another human being in need and I can’t ignore that. Reality check #2
So I ran back in the house and got a few bottles of water and some food and ran back out. As I walked up to the fence that he was sleeping against (he was on the outside and I was on the inside – so I felt somewhat safe) I at first was scared to wake him and possibly anger him but I had to. I said, “Hey, are you OK?”, he was jolted awake and was a bit dazed, I asked him again and he replied”, Yes, I am ok, I am just trying to get some sleep.” The weather was getting bad, a summer dust storm and rain was moving in. He immediately said, “Oh, I need to get out of here and move on” and so he managed to squeeze out from behind the bush and to pull himself up, covered with leaves and branches and looking so disheveled. He was probably in his 40’s but it was hard to tell because he was so dirty and sunburned from days and months of living on the streets in the heat of the summer here in Arizona. I handed him the food and water and he sheepishly took it and put it in a shopping bag which was all he had in the world. I asked him if I could call anyone for him or do anything for him. He kindly replied, “You are so kind to give me food and water, you have done enough”. I guess I was stunned at how friendly and normal he was and that made me emotional – I wanted to know more about him and how he got into this situation. I asked him if he had family that I could call and he said that they didn’t want anything to do with him. Then I asked him how long he had been homeless and he said about a year. My heart was aching for this poor man and I so wanted to make it all better but I couldn’t. I wanted to offer for him to be able to clean himself up and give him some clean clothes but as a single woman living alone that would not have been wise. I was in tears and he saw that and said, “Don’t be sad, it’s not your fault”, I told him that I knew that but it just breaks my heart to see someone so down on their luck. In these uncertain times many of us are just a paycheck away from this very fate – it doesn’t take much these days and making a living as an artist is about as tenuous as it can get. Maybe that scared me. He wanted to get going and I told him to be well and I turned and walked away. He thanked me for my kindness and I said it was the least could do. But in my mind I thanked him for the levity that he brought to my day. As I walked back into my house with my head hanging and tears steaming down my face I knew I had just had a big wake up call of some sort. I felt a guilt like I hadn’t felt in a long time for feeling like I had too much. I text-ed a friend about it and his wise words made me feel somewhat better; “Cheyenne, don’t feel guilty about having what you have. You have worked hard for it and it puts you in a position to help others” – yes, bingo….and now I am even more motivated to do so. Thank you wise friend! The homeless problem here in the PHX metro area is very bad. I have gone to the shelters to give them clothes, handed out water on hot summer days, and bought a few sandwiches (the biggest ones the store had) for a man that I see from time to time with his shopping cart under an overpass near my house. But it never feels like enough…I vow to do more and I WILL do more to help.
Anyway, I was so immersed in the drama of the day with the whole Facebook issue and while it is a very important issue for me I had to put it in perspective. Yes, I make a living off of my photographs, my intellectual property, and these days intellectual property of a kinds is under siege from social media outlets and the internet in general. So yes, it is a VERY important issue for me since this is my full time job and how I keep a roof over my head and food on the table. But for a brief moment I was jolted to reality and took a good hard look at the big picture. We are all humans and we need to take better care of one another – stop the fighting and the competition and just be kind and bring being HUMAN back to being a GOOD thing. It seems the world is so angry and hell bent on accumulating material things at a furious pace that we think will fill up the emptiness inside of us. Trust me, I have been there and I can say for a fact that those “things” will NEVER fill up that emptiness inside of you – those “things” will only anchor you down and saddle you with debt. I have, over the last few years been decluttering and simplifying my life but I STILL feel like I have TOO much. While my needs have always been pretty simple I know that there are others who could use some of the things that I do not and I am more motivated than ever to decrease my “footprint” and give away what I do not need anymore. Sometimes when I am on the road shooting photos or leading a workshop and have all that I need in the back of my car, that is the best feeling in the world. So simple and so easy. I don’t want to live in a hovel with nothing but I really only want what means something to me – the basics – to keep life simple, easy, healthy and uncluttered. Is less really more? Yes, I think it is, no, I KNOW IT IS!
I know I am rambling but this week really stirred the pot for me about so many things and I take to my blog and write when something stirs my soul. And by losing a friend and then seeing someone with nothing but a very kind heart just made me think…there can be a silver lining to loss and sadness….be the change you wish to see in the world…..and start today.
Be kind to one another – Cheyenne