My mom has a story about me that she tells everyone. You know the one I’m talking about, the one you’ve heard a hundred times. I’m sure your mom has one she tells about you too. My mom has told all my friends, has told her friends and any stranger willing to listen. Truthfully, I love the story and I wouldn’t mind hearing it as many times as she wants to tell it. I’d never tell her that though.
It goes something like this. “When Heather was about three years old, we heard her crying in the house. She sounded so sad and we wanted to comfort her but we couldn’t find her anywhere. We could only hear her crying. We called out to her trying to find her but she wouldn't answer. We followed the sound of her crying and finally, we found her hiding behind the stereo.” It was one of the huge stereos from the 80’s that are bigger than a sofa. “We saw her there, in a corner and asked her what was wrong. She said, ‘Somebody done somebody wrong. So sad it made everybody cry.’ We comforted her and explained it was just a song. It was the sweetest thing.” The song on the radio was Kenny Rogers Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.
I get a laugh out of it but also relate to the little girl I was. I used to think my sensitivity was a negative trait. You get comments like, “Why are you so sensitive?” “Maybe you take things too personal.” I think we are all born with a spirit. There are people and experiences that change us, but God created our spirit in us before we were even born. I am still very sensitive but as I have grown and matured, I have learned that my sensitivity was a gift from God, not a flaw or something I need to change. It is so much a part of me that I couldn’t change it even if I wanted too.
I think the gift of sensitivity and compassion for others was what made me the perfect photographer for my client Tracy's family. She reached out to me for her family portraits last month. She told me that she hadn’t had her children all photographed together since they were very young, that one of her sons is special needs autistic and it was difficult to get family photos. Her parents were coming into town for an extended stay and she really wanted to get everyone together for a portrait.
As our conversation progressed, Tracy told me her son was aggressive autistic, not that he was harmful but physical when expressing himself. She had attempted to have photographers out to their property for photos in the past, but they had given up and said they were not dealing with this. My heart hurt for her. The sensitive spirit God placed in me when I was three, is still part of who I am today. I was annoyed at what they must have experienced and determined to give Tracy's family the respectful and caring experience they deserved. I wanted this mom to have photos of her children, altogether in one image.
When I arrived that day, my normal assistant was not available. Her older brother had been willing to step in and was a saving grace. I pulled Tracy aside and asked her for tips on how to interact with her son Eli. Mostly I wanted to know what his body language would be if he was stressed out in any way. I wanted to know if he liked a very calm and quiet approach or if I should be vibrant and energetic. She told me he likes calm and would rock if he felt distressed at all.
I got everything set up outside. Tracy and her husband Matt came out alone with Eli so we could get him warmed up to us slowly. Eli walked directly to my assistant and hugged him. Then he walked to me and hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. I found Eli to be a happy soul and very loving. Eli couldn’t communicate with his words but I did learn that with the right sensitivity, he shines brightest. He hugged us both several times as we took photos. It made me happy to know he was happy and having a good time.
I wasn’t able to instruct Eli to hold a pose and sometimes he didn’t want to be close to people. I wasn’t there for the beauty of a perfect depth of field, the perfect pose or the perfect lighting. Sometimes what makes a picture perfect, isn’t the technicality behind it but the people in the photo and the way we treat them. I am so happy I was able to connect with Eli and to give a mom a portrait with all of her children. It was a moving and beautiful experience for me. I came home, got in the shower and let the tears run down my face. There was so much emotion in me, all I could do was weep and pray. I witnessed so much love in my time with them. I saw a marriage built on something so strong, I can only guess that it is faith. I saw a teenage boy who loved his parents with the same love that our children have for us when they are young. I saw teenage siblings love and care for each other the way most of us can only dream of. I felt so thankful for my life, so thankful God chose me for Tracy and her family, so thankful God made my life’s purpose to take pictures for people He perfectly created.
God, thank you for creating me as the sensitive three year old that cried for a sad song and the sensitive woman I am today. That sensitivity is part of what made this day a success. It is a gift you have given to me and one I no longer try to change or hide.
Psalm 139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.