I can hear the rain tapping on the roof of our loft. For the first time in the last few months, I’m calmed by the sound of rain. As someone who is typically stressed out by loud noises, this is a significant change. What is the significance? Of that I’m unsure, but it feels like a spiritual change.
If you know me, you may know that I spent the first 13 years of my education in Catholic schools. After all those years, I was a bit sick of the religious talk and not being able to opt out of practicing something that I wasn’t excited about. Did I believe in my religion then? Do I believe in it now? In a sense, I do.
Rather than following the tenets of Catholicism, I’ve always been more fascinated by humanist philosophy. “Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition,” according to Wikipedia. In my terms, I believe in the potential of all people. People can facilitate great change, and while I would like to believe that people are inherently good, I know that not all are. Regardless, I like to see the good in people and treat everyone I meet with respect.
With that being said, I want to let you know that I do believe in a higher power, but I’m actually rather nonchalant about it. The most accurate label for this case is “agnostic theist”, as I believe there is a higher power, though who the higher power may be and what their capabilities and motivations are are completely unknown to me, and I tend to not concern myself with them too much.
I hold firm that when you recognize the humanity of others by meeting them with good will and an open heart, those people can accomplish fantastic things. It’s little bits of kindness that I find provide the most opportunities for recognizing the humanity of others; they are typically small sacrifices of the time and resources you take for granted.
Today, someone approached me with vulnerability, and I responded with kindness . In turn, I responded by letting myself be vulnerable and was met with kindness.
I met with a model outside of The Company’s Garden for a session this afternoon. We walked in, passed a variety of vendors, and found ourselves wandering through the gardens for the best place to start. The model had traveled nearly an hour to meet me at the gardens, and I was honored someone would travel so far to meet and work with me. Beverly was so kind and incredibly easy to communicate with – you’ll see the photos in a couple weeks! Anyway.
Near the end of our shoot, we shot some portraits near the restaurant and a man came up to us asking if we wanted to purchase some stickers from him. My brain hasn’t yet grown accustomed to the South African accent, so I missed the beginning of the explanation. He shared some details about his living situation – specifically, he was homeless and working with an organization to sell stickers and raise money for himself.
He approached us well, introducing himself and his purpose. I wanted the stickers to give to some friends. I bought the stickers, but I felt compelled to find out more about him and connect with him, at least for a brief moment. My reflexes kicked in, and I offered a coffee to him and the model.
In the conversation that followed, we exchanged anecdotes, throwing jokes and life advice from person to person. It was a wonderful moment of connection over the consumption of caffeine.
I offered to take a photo of him, for him, before parting ways. We discussed my philosophy regarding portraits and I snapped his portrait – only one photo, that was all he wanted.
We parted ways.
As Beverly and I left the garden, we paused at a stand selling handmade jewelry. I purchased a couple items for my friends as I had promised on my way in; as I readied myself to head back to the loft, the vendor gifted me an extra wooden doll that he had from his previous round of sales. I was touched by his kindness, and grateful for the very cool authentic gift.
The easiest place for me to find it is with others at meals. Sharing food is a communion of sorts, a chance for deeper connection with the other spirits in human bodies roaming this wild earth. There’s just something about sitting together for a meal and being present with others that weaves threads between your souls, that starts drawing people together in intimate ways. It’s so hard to explain, but truly an unforgettable experience.
Every day is a religious experience for me. Take some moments to ground yourself physically and emotionally on one of your slower days, and you can find your 24 hour church too.