A Service Project
I'm big on kindness. Like really big. I love being kind to people and I love being on the receiving end of kindness. I've found there is no better way to express true, soul deep kindness than by serving others. By giving of your time and your talents just to lift others and be a part of something that matters. That was this project: The Special Olympics hosted at Athens PA High School. I went to some of the head coordinators and told them what I wanted to do and a plan was made . . . mostly a plan where I show up and do my thing and try to move as quickly as possible. I stressed that I wasn't going to be taking any photojournalistic pictures. While those are amazing and capture some pretty intense emotion, it wasn't what I wanted to give these athletes. Instead, I proposed my idea of doing portraits. I would keep it simple, minimal equipment, no flash, no lighting other than what the sun gave us (she gave us A LOT as the day wore on), and I'd be quick. However, keeping it simple for me didn't mean that it would mean any less. I wanted to make these kids feel important! I wanted them to feel cool and accepted and proud! I wanted them to feel like they, for however long they were in front of me and my camera, were rockstars. The day came and me and my amazing assistant, Ben, geared up and headed out.
Schools and group homes from different towns and district bused kids and athletes in to participate in events and friendly competition. Over 900 athletes where there.
My friends, there was so much joy on this field! Smiles and hugging and high fives and laughing and cheering . . . it was amazing. It was beautiful. When I asked these individuals if I could photograph them they got so excited! Some of them came back to me more than once to sit in front of my camera. Some brought over best friends, some showed me their ribbons, and they all gave joy . . . completely uninhibited, unreserved, unchecked joy. Ben and I battled wind and a backdrop that had grand delusions of being a sail. We battled the sun on our necks and lost (my Missouri girl redneck will be showing for the rest of the year). We used more gaff tape to hold things in place than I have ever used for anything E V E R. . . . I also got more high fives and genuine smiles in the space of three hours then I ever have in that amount of time. These kids, these athletes, their families and their aids, they really are incredible. They are fiery. They are joy-filled. They are everything I hope to one day be. I realized as I've looked back on this project and thought about these people, I'm really big in to self growth. I'm a big believer in becoming more, in doing better, in progress of who I am and who I one day will become. I realized these kids, they are already there. They have achieved spiritually what I will work my entire life trying to obtain. They have arrived. I'm working to get to their level, not the other way around. Their bodies may not work. But they show up anyway.
They may see the world differently. But they see it with more beauty.
They may react to the world differently. But maybe they are right . . .
I went into this project thinking I was going to be doing a great service for the athletes that were there. But I left having been given so much. They served me with every smile, hug, high five, and joyful comment. They filled my soul. They lifted me. They served me.
My goal is to be more like these kids.
Let's not hold in our smiles. Let's feel life! Let's own it and accept and love and celebrate. Let's be like them . . . they are the best of us. Love, Melinda
Photography Studio in Athens PA.
Serving Athens Pennsylvania, Towanda Pennsylvania, Corning New York, and Twin Tiers area.