This week marked the first of a series of classes I have volunteered to teach for a local outreach program providing care and after-school services to at-risk youth. I was extremely honored to even be considered for such a worthy project and in the same breath overwhelmed at the responsibility of sharing photography with such young minds when I am still learning so much myself!
I brought along the lovely Miss Melody Gillikin to assist and give her kudos for managing to provide emotional and tangible support while I taught, while also managing to snap a few photos of the class and me in action. Thank you lady! You rock! And also a tiny kudos goes out to my other lovely assistant, my daughter Emily, who was a big helper and will be back next week as a willing model!
I started out the night sharing a bit about myself. I encouraged them to look beyond our class as just another activity in a maze of different programs they have taken part in. I challenged them to think about photography as a possible career, sharing how my adventures have connected me with professional sports teams, local heroes, families getting married, having children and other special life moments. I challenged them that they had the opportunity to explore and discover the artist within them and work hard to determine what they could do to massage and mold their art into a life-long adventure.
Each child was given a tiny mat board. "I want to see through your eyes. Show me!" A good portion of the class was spent holding up their mat boards, framing themselves, their friends, exploring different perspectives, heights, angles. To their surprise, there was no wrong answer! Of course, as kids, they were delighted to hear that the rules in photography were made to be broken. I could see the challenge in their eyes!
I learned a lot from that first class. I was reminded of life and all its obstacles, and even more importantly, the rare opportunities we have to encourage our youth to rise above, share a bit of themselves with the world, and take courage in knowing they are capable of doing something great. And even deeper, to take great pride in their view of the world. What they have to say is vital, beloved and valued highly.
There are two kids in the class, and I'll be the first to admit it, they were what I considered the most unlikely suspects, that have a great eye for photography and I see potential for something to grow with a little pressing and cultivating. A gentle reminder from God that my assumptions are generally wrong and He'll spark beauty and creativity in the most unlikely places and to wait on Him, pay attention, and not miss it when He reveals Himself in others.
I look forward to learning more from these children and have already expressed an interest in spending more time one-on-one with those that are interested in digging deep to explore the arts and how they can share their vision with the world. I am blessed to know them. I am blessed to have the opportunity to share my heart. Always, always, always be looking for opportunities to give back and to share your heart. It is vital as artists that we contribute meaningfully to the world around us, above and beyond those images we create for ourselves and our clients. We all need to dig deep and commit to doing more for those who would otherwise go without knowing what is out there for them. I promise you, it will be well worth the effort. I know we are busy, but we all have time to give 1 hour of our attention to somebody else. Whether it's photography, sports, academics, or just your interest, find some way to give back. You'll find you are on the receiving end more often than not.