Hello! I hope you've had a great Thanksgiving weekend!
Day 105 - Debbie
This is one of my very best friends, Debbie. You met her last year too! Debbie, our dear friend, Becki, and I, went out to celebrate Debbie's Birthday.
Debbie is one of my very best friends in the universe, and she's also one of my most challenging subjects because she's always talking. It seems like every other picture I take of Debbie, is one in which I've caught her with a word half-way out her mouth. At one point when we were trying to take the pictures, I actually had to say to her, "Debbie, stop talking!" Debbie was quiet for about 1.5 seconds and then she blurted, "oh, I have to tell you a story!" We all busted up laughing and all I could do at that point was just to try to capture Debbie being Debbie.
The upside to shooting Debbie is that although I have to take several pictures to catch her when she's not mid-word, at least one of those pictures ends up being among my favorites of all time. Of course, I'm a little biased because she's my friend and I love her, but some of my best pictures have been of Debbie and Becki. I love taking their picture together. When they're in front of my lens, I'm able to pause to admire and appreciate just how beautiful my friends are.
"'Sharsies' moments with my besties and the fact that I'm looking forward to the next chapter in my life," Debbie answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in her life right now. "Sharsies" is the term Debbie has assigned to dining family style, where everyone is sharing a little of everything but really, it's less about the food and more about just sharing in the moment.
I asked Debbie if she's recently performed an act of kindness and she answered, "Lou and I just gave out brown bags a few weeks ago." Debbie was referring to "Project Brown Bag." We decided a few years ago that we would no longer exchange Christmas gifts with one another. That same year, we thought Debbie broke the rules when she handed out a brown bag to each of us at Christmas, with the instructions not to open the bag. After we each had a brown bag in our hands, Debbie then explained her idea that she wanted to start a movement in which people would hand out "brown bags" to homeless people. It was her dream that we would always carry brown bags with us in our cars and when we found someone in need, we would have something to give to them.
The idea is to fill the brown bags with snack foods, water and whatever else could be of help to a person living on the street. In addition to encouraging us to carry brown bags with us at all times, Debbie now heads up the effort for us to get together every few months and hand out bags in Downtown Portland. Last year, we took it up a step higher and collected hats, scarves, blankets and socks, and set up a little mobile soup kitchen with hot chocolate and cup-o-noodles and handed them out to people on Christmas day.
Debbie further explained, "Project Brown Bag inspires grassroots efforts for others to do the same. That's what I'm most excited about." We've learned that a few friends and family have now also started to carry brown bags with them, and have also organized large-scale efforts to distribute brown bags to people in need.
"To be thankful for what I have and take advantage of opportunities to give back to others," Debbie answered, when I asked if she had a personal mission statement or life's purpose. Debbie's whole point with Project Brown Bag is helping us to have gratitude for what we have, because no matter what our circumstances, people are living with less. Even if our budgets are tight, we can still find enough to assemble a brown bag or two and be able to help someone in need.
When I asked Debbie something about herself which she would consider to be a success, she jokingly answered, "I look good in these pants!" We all laughed and spent the next few minutes remarking about her magic pants and agreed that she did indeed look great in those pants! After the laughs, Debbie answered seriously, "I'm proud of the special relationships I have with my friends and family."
Debbie, you're one of a kind and I love you! I'm so happy to be among one of those special relationships and know our friendship will last a lifetime. I love your big heart.
Day 106 - Nick
This is Nick. I could hear a skateboarder in a parking lot near me and I was on my way to go ask him if I could take his picture when all of the sudden, Nick just appeared. I've learned in this project that when someone just appears in my path like this, I need to go with it and ask for their picture.
Nick and I talked for a while, much longer than I normally get to talk to with each subject. You know when you watch a good movie and hours later you're still replaying scenes in your mind and trying to dissect and analyze it? Our conversation was like that. Our conversation was significant to me and exactly what I needed to hear at that time. Hopefully, it was also significant to Nick as well, but I suspect in this case - Nick was there to teach me something, rather than the other way around.
"I'm learning the true meaning of compassion," Nick answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in his life right now. Nick's study of Buddhism is helping him to consider people and situations differently and he's learning to become more selfless. Nick explained that compassion leads to taking care of others, not things. We should place more value on people instead of material possessions.
I asked Nick if he's recently performed an act of kindness. Nick answered that kindness is "daily practice" for him, again he referenced having compassion. Nick explained that it is an act of kindness to keep ourselves in check - to see beyond ourselves and to be open to "love on each other more." Patience is kindness. Choosing to seek clarity instead making assumptions about others is an act of kindness. We talked about the example of somebody cutting us off in traffic. It's highly unlikely that a person intentionally cut us off. Seriously, how many people would deliberately put themselves and others in danger? It is our human reaction to get angry or frustrated with someone who cuts us off, but the more likely story is that it was a complete accident on their part. Or, we never know what they're dealing with. For all we know, their mind my have been on a sick or dying relative. Attempting to see things from another person's perspective is kindness. Nick and I both agreed that as much as we're both striving to be good people, because we're just human, we make human mistakes. The point is, we're trying.
"To be a conduit," Nick answered, when I asked if he had a personal mission statement or life's purpose. I loved Nick's answer. Not only is it his profession, but Nick feels it's his life's purpose to do whatever it takes to help others to shine. Nick feels he's a success when he's been able to help turn on a light bulb for another being.
Of most significance from our conversation, is that we both appreciated that at that specific moment, nothing else mattered. We were both completely present in the current moment. I explained to Nick how this project has helped me to realize that when I'm meeting the subject for the day and taking their picture, it's often the only time in my entire day that I'm able to let go and just be completely present. There are definitely days when I've been unable to do this and it shows. Sometimes my mind is still trying to process work or life stress, and I've not been completely present, but I'm working on becoming more mindful. It was just pretty amazing that for a few minutes, nothing else mattered to us, a couple of strangers, than the person standing before us.
Again, our conversation circled back to compassion and kindness and how being in the present moment lead us meeting one another and having our conversation to begin with. I had intentions to go elsewhere to look for a subject, but being in the moment caused me to approach Nick. Nick definitely had a lot on his mind and he had an agenda, but because he paused and was in the present, he agreed to let me take his picture. He was able to put together in his mind that I needed to find a subject, and he was gong to help me!
Thank you, Nick, for your time and for being a conduit.
Day 107 - Christopher
This is Christopher. We met outside of Sam's Billiards.
"I'm writing for a living," Christopher answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in his life right now. Christopher writes comics.
I asked Christopher if he's performed an act of kindness or if he's been on the receiving end of an act of kindness. Christopher said that the barista at the coffee shop he goes to gave him a free pastry that morning.
"Don't waste time, and don't be a dick," Christopher answered, when I asked if he had a personal mission statement. When you think about it, this is actually pretty darn good! (And, it's so concise - but that comes from not wasting time!)
I asked Christopher something about himself which he considers to be a success. Christopher explained that he moved to Portland specifically to become a full-time writer and he's made it happen!
Day 108 - Morgan
This is Morgan. He was sitting on a bench, waiting for the bus to arrive when we met.
"I feel like I finally found someone who loves me unconditionally," Morgan answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in his life right now.
I asked Morgan if he's recently performed an act of kindness. Morgan explained that he reserves/saves the tips he makes from his job and then gives the money to homeless people he meets on the street. Wow. Can you believe this? I'm sure Morgan, like anyone, could probably use his tips in his own daily life, but he gives his money away.
When I asked Morgan if he had a personal mission statement, or life's purpose, he answered, "I'm still trying to figure that out - whatever it is, I hope I can use it to benefit everyone around me." I suspect Morgan is already a benefit to everyone around him, simply by being him.
Morgan feels that making the move to Portland is something about himself which he would consider to be a success. He worked for months to save up enough money to make the move.
Morgan and I had finished with the "interview" and pictures and just then the bus arrived. Morgan, however, made no attempt to board the bus. After the bus pulled away, I asked, "wasn't that your bus?" Morgan answered, "yes, but it's ok. Another one will come soon." I was in shock that Morgan passed on his bus just so we could visit a little while longer.
This was the day before Thanksgiving and Morgan explained that he really didn't have any place he had to be. I was thankful for that, because I really didn't have any place I had to be either since my husband and I weren't doing anything for Thanksgiving. I asked Morgan if he had plans for Thanksgiving and he told me of the friendsgiving feast he would attend the next day. Morgan had a couple of grocery bags with him and I curious, I asked what he had been assigned to bring. He reached down into the grocery bag and pulled out a Tofurkey! We both laughed and I agreed when he said, "it doesn't get any more Portland than that!"
Morgan said this would be the first Thanksgiving he's celebrated in a few years. I don't know if it were the things Moran said, or the things Morgan didn't say, but I sensed that Morgan may have had a difficult past. He's soft-spoken and his nature is sweet and gentle. I don't know what the past may have been like for Morgan, but I'm so happy that Morgan made it to Portland and that he's found love here. I'm optimistic his future is going to be a happy one.
I would have been happy just hanging out and talking with Morgan a little longer, but I didn't know if Morgan felt the same way. I also didn't want him to feel obligated to pass on the next bus too! I thanked Morgan and we said our good-byes. He's a good guy.
Day 109 - Tim
This is Tim. We met outside the mall.
My husband and I spent a quiet Thanksgiving morning together and after he left for work that evening, I was alone. I had wasted the day away, watching cheesy Hallmark movies and hadn't even gone out to find a subject for the day. I headed to the mall, hoping to find someone there. Tim appeared to be heading in with his Mom or relative when I stopped to ask if I could take his picture.
"Seeing my family again," Tim answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in his life right now.
"I helped a homeless guy the other day," Tim answered, when I asked if he's performed an act of kindness.
When I asked Tim if he had a personal mission statement or a life's purpose, he asked for examples of what others had said. I read a few of the statements from the previous few days and then Tim answered, "to live with honor and respect." I'm always so amazed that nearly everyone is able to pull these beautiful statements out of thin air. If someone were to ask me, I would get overwhelmed and flustered. I know I would just ramble. It's been my hope that after I meet someone and ask the question, they will then go on to refine their personal mission statement. I like to think that the answer they gave me was their first draft, and that perhaps they go on to give the question even more consideration. I hope the process has been helpful to people in some way.
When I first asked Tim something about himself which he considers to be a success, he said that he couldn't think of anything. I pushed him a little more, explaining that one guy said that he was successful at napping! After hearing that, Tim then answered that he's successful at making friends.
Day 110 - Tatiana
This is Tatiana. She was waiting at the bus stop.
Tatiana was such a beautiful sight but I was having trouble catching it the way I was seeing in my mind. Raindrops covered the bus shelter and when a car would drive by, the car's headlights would light up the raindrops like sparkling glitter. I don't know which was sparklier - the glistening rain drops or Tatiana!
"Being around my family for the holidays," Tatiana answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in her life right now.
"I make sure that I always do one random act of kindness every day," Tatiana answered, when I asked if she's performed an act of kindness or if she's been on the receiving end of an act of kindness.
"To live, laugh, love - to appreciate life and live it to the fullest," Tatiana answered, when I asked if she had a personal mission statement or life's purpose. "I wake up thankful for each new day," Tatiana went on to explain. Talking with Tatiana was so uplifting!
When I asked Tatiana something about herself which she considers to be a success, she answered, "that I'm working and getting everything together. I'm standing on my own two feet and being independent."
Tatiana was such a sweetie. I was so glad we met. After we were finished and as we were saying good-bye, she thanked me!! It felt funny when Tatiana thanked me. I'm the one who owed her thanks and appreciation. Tatiana is the one who performed the act of kindness by letting me take her picture and sharing some of her story with us. I thanked her, but again, Tatiana thanked me right back. As I was driving away, I realized the reason Tatiana thanked me is because for a moment - we were able to talk about only positive things. She was thankful for the fun moment we shared.
Day 111 - Holly
This is Holly. We met at the beauty supply store. I feel a little weird about asking people to be in the project when we're inside of a business. Not only does it feel I'm interrupting them at work, but it just feels awkward. Since the other customers had just left and because the ladies working in the store were so beautifully made-up, I figured I would go ahead and ask. Holly's co-worker (possible manager?) volunteered her. Holly agreed, but when I asked if we could go outside to take the picture (where there wasn't a wall-o-beauty products), Holly reconsidered because of the cold. I said I could ask the questions inside and then we could go outside and I'd be fast! Holly agreed.
The happiest thing happening in Holly's life right now is school.
"It happens every day," Holly answered, when I asked if she's performed an act of kindness or if she's been on the receiving end of an act of kindness.
"One day at a time," Holly answered, when I asked if she had a personal mission statement or a life's purpose.
When I asked Holly something about herself she would consider to be a success, I could tell she was struggling for the answer. Holly's co-worker/manager encouraged her, reminding her that she has a huge success if she was willing to share. Holly then answered that she will have 18 months sobriety in December. Congratulations, Holly! Nice work.
Holly and I then went out to take the picture. Holly explained she's not able to give a fake smile. I told her it was ok and that she didn't have to fake a smile. She then gave me a few fun/sassy looks and then we did a couple where she was just her natural self.
Holly's look is amazing and I was pleased I managed to get a decent picture, even though we were in a strip mall parking lot, at night. (I attribute that to Holly!)
Wishing you continued success, Holly.
Here's the summary of personal mission statements/life's purposes from this week's subjects:
- To be thankful for what I have and take advantage of opportunities to give back to others.
- To be a conduit.
- Don't waste time, and don't be a dick.
- I'm still trying to figure that out - whatever it is, I hope I can use it to benefit everyone around me.
- To live with honor and respect.
- One day at a time
Thank you for following along and if you've been in this project, thank you for your kindness and for allowing me to take your picture!