I first began designing the Year In Gratitude photography class back in the summer. I realized I have many things to be grateful for in my life but some things slip through my awareness crack. (Not to be confused with other cracks.) It is easy to find gratitude for sunsets, my dog, good food and my family but what about all the people in my life that I interact with daily or just once and then never see again? I have often thought it so interesting to meet someone on a plane, for example, have a really cool conversation with them and then boom.... never see them again. I remember some people from airplane rides that had a big effect on me or got me thinking about something differently. I really appreciated that time with them. I also met some really helpful airline stewardesses and stewards who I may never see again. How do I tell them I am grateful for their patience dealing with all the cranky, farting travelers who need to sneak by them in the narrow isle to go to the bathroom. "OH, and can I get another soda when you get a chance?"
Showing gratitude is basically giving a big thank you to someone. I know that when someone takes time to thank me, I get all warm and fuzzy inside. I know it sounds corny but it is true. I love knowing that someone appreciates me or my efforts. I don't strive for the thank you in my helping someone but it sure is nice when you get it. If you thank with sincerity the person feels it even more. So, I decided to thank people by taking their photo.
I have gotten so much more out of the process than I ever thought I would.
I was walking at a golf course and saw a grounds guy spraying the lawn. The water was making such a beautiful fan in the morning light. I watched for a bit and was glad he was there to show me that. As I got closer to him I told him what I saw and thanked him for keeping the grass in such great shape. "Can I take your photo?" He did not really speak much English but he saw I had my phone camera out. After some pointing and saying louder (as if that makes him understand English better) "I want to photograph you for doing a good job," he finally understood and let me take this image of him. Back to work he went. I wonder what he thought of all that.
The next guy was the cable repair guy. I don't know about you but I rely a lot on my internet service so I was grateful he was there to fix our problem. I told him about my year in gratitude practice and he thought it was pretty cool. He totally got why we should practice gratitude and we ended up having a really great conversation about it. Have not seen him since.
So... how many times have you gone to the grocery store and seen the blank glazed over look of the checkout people. I sometimes stare at them just to see if they will look up at me at all. On one particular day I had a lot of veggies in my cart, which are hard to run through the self check out so I was in the line with two cashiers I see a lot. It was a fairly slow day at the grocery store so I thought it was a good time to thank them for their service with a photo. Well, let me tell you... the guy turned all red and smiled the biggest smile. He was so happy to let me take his picture and told me how much he loves photography and proceeded to tell me about a cool image he just captured in the snow. Not only do I know something about him now but I got a bit of insight to what makes him tick. Who knew? The woman, I found out, after opening up a bit of conversation around my project, told me she liked to drum and was involved with a local Indian tribe where she visited and practiced her drumming. Again... who knew?
I now feel like these people are not just random encounters. I have made a connection with them in a deeper way. (Not too deep. That would just be weird.) Normally I would have just given a quick "Hi" or glance. The act of stopping, thanking them and asking them if I can take their photo has been so fun and given me a new awareness about how quickly we judge others too. Everyone has something to offer us but if we do not stay open to the possibility of learning from every encounter, we will miss it.
Thank you, all you people in my life, who I was once very neutral towards for everything you have done for me. You have bagged my groceries for very little pay, you have fixed what I could not and you spoke to me without the use of language but through your smile you gave me as I snapped your photo.