The first week in July brought a new routine into my life. I typically spend Mondays catching up on emails and loading pictures from weekend weddings and pretending I am organized. Those activities are followed by a personal transformation into an editing machine; and then usually by the time Wednesday rolls around I have something that I can't wait to show the world…so I post it.
The past few Mondays the number of things on my to-do list hasn't decreased very much..though the number of worries and petty troubles on my mind have consistently waned. I have had the incredible privilege of teaming up with A Child's Place and Silent Images to teach photography to about 60 homeless youth in Charlotte. I posted a while back about my astonishment when I stumbled upon Silent Images after spending hours researching grants in an attempt to offer a photography class to homeless kids in Charlotte. Silent Images was already on it! They have been able to teach the art of photography (and maybe a few life lessons along the way) for the past few summers through A Child's Place camp programs. I immediately signed up to volunteer this summer, and seriously should've had a paper chain counting down the days until it began! I couldn't wait for it to get here.
I have this whopping hole deep in my heart that is swallowed up by the problem of homelessness. I was made with it in me. I've had it since day one. I grew up living in Connecticut and when my family took day trips to Manhattan my parents would have to give me a ration of quarters to drop in homeless peoples' cups. It destroyed me that people had to sleep on the streets and that no one was waiting for them at home.
The only thing that breaks my heart more than homeless adults is homeless children. A Child's Place recently did a study identifying 4,453 homeless children enrolled in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. The arrival of summer generally invites instability into the lives of homeless children -- beginning with the loss of the one daily meal that they could count on. This summer, one hundred of these kids have the opportunity to continue learning in a reliable environment at My Place Camp -- and this pile of broken-hearted mush has the privilege of getting to know a few of them.
I asked the question, "Who thinks they are an artist?" during photography class yesterday. Every kid in the class raised their hand. We could use a little more of that mentality in our adult lives, eh? I went on to talk about how painters are artists, and jewelry-makers are artists, and people who sketch are artists. I kept the monologue rolling, thinking all the kids were on this journey with me and I was going to lead them right where I wanted them…to the understanding that photographers are artists too. So I asked them, "Who else do you think is an artist?" A little girl raised her hand and answered inquisitively, "God?"
She's right. God paints beauty all over this world. And we get to photograph it. Here is a little display of God's best piece yet...these beautiful little children:
Due to the sensitivity of their situations, their beautiful faces must remain anonymous but there is something touching about their sweet hands learning the art of photography.
Thank you a million to A Child's Place for providing this safe haven for homeless kids! If you haven't had the chance to check out A Child's Place, please do. They are wonderful and they always need volunteers! In addition...I can't say enough about the integrity, compassion, and hard work that flows out of David and the Silent Images team. There is a beautiful piece on the Silent Images blog right now by a friend and colleague, Elizabeth Marx. Read it!