I met a man today and as we were telling how we came to know a fellow friend, he recited the exact day, time and details of that exchange which was 26 years ago. I was stunned at the detail with which he remembered and realized what an impact that small act of kindness was and how it changed this man! Mulling over my life and the defining moments that I will never forget, I remember the smallest act of kindness that felt like a person literally “saved my life” emotionally. It was a moment that touched me for years. So much so that I looked and looked for years to be able to thank this person ……
It was in Alaska, on a beautiful night, when I photographed a special musical family on the beach at sunset. My vision was to put a verse in the image (I called it a “Promise Portrait”) and the night ended in a stellar sunset and became one of my iconic portfolio images. However, the personal drama in my own life of being abandoned and without help left me in tears with frustration and anger. (this was also soon after my head injury and my emotional sensitivity was off the charts) But a photographer I barely knew showed up and offered to help. He was a budding photographer, as I remember, and wanted to assist. He saved the day and the session went amazing and he was a great help. BUT what I will always remember is the cup he gave me – a little thank you gift of a pretty cup with some herbal tea bags inside. The message on the cup read “A friend is one who comes in when the whole world has gone out”. To this day it makes my eyes well up with tears because of what it spoke to me at a time when I was feeling total abandonment. It stood for the answer, the kindness of God to send what I lacked, the comfort I needed when I was in so much pain. Any other day it would have been a cute cup, but it spoke words of life to me that he could have never imagined.
So I longed to tell that man thank you for years, but did not know his name. I knew the city he lived in and not much else. For about 15 years I wondered who he was. Then one day, maybe 5 years ago, at WPPI in Las Vegas, [the Wedding Portrait Photographers Int’l Convention], a man came up to me to say hi and asked me if I remembered who he was. He looked familiar but I thought he was a former student. As he described who he was, I burst into tears telling him of his huge act of kindness and how it impacted me and how I longed to tell him thank you for almost 15 years… I know he was bowled over by my overwhelming and emotional response! But I was so happy to have finally had a chance to say thank you! So, thank you, Robert Harwood, for touching my life with kindness at the perfect moment. It is something I will never, ever forget, and a cup I will cherish the rest of my life because of what it stands for: I AM LOVED AND NOT ALONE.
So I try to remember to always act on the urge to bless someone and be kind. We have no idea what is going on in others’ lives and hearts and the volumes of love and encouragement we may be speaking to them in the process. The things we do and say may seem small or insignificant, but if done in love, at the perfect time, may be a life-changer or even a life-saver!