For the job-that-pays-my-bills, I visit stores that sell my company’s product. Since my territory covers the Boston area to mid-New Hampshire, I spend a lot of time in my car. In some cities and towns, though, I have stores that are close enough together that I can park the car once and walk back and forth between them. It’s never a problem – well, except for that one time a young police officer stopped me with, “Are you soliciting, Miss?”
(He called me “Miss”!)
Anyway, today was one of those heavy walking days. When the weather is nice I allow myself a slower pace because I enjoy looking around when I walk.
When I’m inside the stores I need to visit I talk with the owners or managers for a bit, fill out a report on my cell phone, and take pictures.
I’d just walked outside of one of my stores and was taking pictures when a man stopped me and earnestly asked me to take his picture. I was a little confused at first; he spoke broken English and I couldn’t tell if he was trying to get me to take his picture or not take his picture. Normally, when other people are nearby they duck out of the way to avoid the camera, but this gentleman was trying to get my attention. I told him I was taking pictures of the store and he smiled cheesily then pointed to his chest and opened his arms wide in a “Look at me!” pose.
I took his picture, giving him a minute to assume his position as it appeared to matter to him. My noticing that point made me think. Why did I find it unusual, or why did I notice, that he needed a moment to think about his pose before I snapped the picture? People pose for pictures all the time – all.the.time. – and adjust themselves for pictures, yet this seemed different.
I got another thought: he might never get his picture taken. That would make this – this simple act of taking a picture – a big event.
Digital cameras and cell phones have made it possible for us to take as many pictures of as many things as we want to (without worrying about running out of film/flash or the time it takes to develop the pictures). And we do. We need only one picture for our profile on Facebook, and we can take thousands just to get the right one. We think nothing of whipping out the phone to take random selfies with each other, a coffee cup, or a burrito. Even my Facebook friends six times removed can see that I take great advantage of that opportunity.
And here was this man, asking me to take his picture.
Look at me!
I talked with him for a moment after I took his picture. I introduced myself and shook his hand – and then he took my hand and cradled it against his cheek. When we said goodbye he didn’t ask for money or anything; all he wanted was his picture taken. When I was a few steps away from him I turned back to look; he was still looking at me and I waved.
Look at me.
LOOK at me.
For all the enjoyment I get when I’m walking around, I know there are still some things I don’t see. I’m absolutely certain that on days that I’m rushing around for my ‘important’ busy-ness that I miss even more –
– like people.
Acknowledgment of one another is huge. It doesn’t hurt to greet someone when you make eye contact, or even greet someone before you make eye contact. People matter, and need to feel like they matter. Think about how you feel when you feel snubbed by someone you know, or how it feels to be ignored. Think about what it might feel like to be unacknowledged. Most of us question our existence in times of stress and tragedy; how much more would you question the Universe if you felt your existence went unnoticed?
I take pictures as casually as I breathe (another privilege I take for granted). How lonely does one have to feel to ask a stranger to take his picture?
It’s not like I will see him again, or exchanged phone numbers with him to text the picture to him. He will not get the picture, but I will have it.
San Nguyen, I am very happy I met you today. Even if we never see each other again, we are tied forever in that moment and right here.
One more thing …
I see you.