It seems like every once in a while some great truth of the human condition comes upon you when you really just aren’t ready for it.
Like when you’re sitting at your desk at home, drinking a $4 latte, reading mind-numbing Facebook updates, and telling yourself just 5 more minutes until you’re ready to actually start being productive with your life.
Anyway. It all started with a picture.
That picture was posted on Facebook along with the caption “Watching a Haitian orphan react to the first picture of herself. Priceless.”
And I almost kept scrolling. In fact, I might have kept scrolling if it weren’t for the fact that I know the photographer. So if at first you’re a little underwhelmed like I was, I understand. We westernized humans are an underwhelmed people.
The picture was taken by Kayla Anderson who, aside from being my favorite photographer, also happens to be my little sister. So yes maybe I’m a little biased, but let the image and her words speak for themselves:
That particular photograph was taken at an orphanage. Well, I call it an orphanage, but it has no structure, no funding, and no organization. It’s simply a place where around 100 children live who have been orphaned by the earthquake in 2010. I was there to tour the “facilities” (just 8 houses where all 100 children live). Immediately upon arrival, I was ambushed by excited children, fascinated with my camera. As I began snapping photos, I was especially drawn to this girl as she did not pose for the picture. She was simply smiling, as if that was her natural reaction no matter her situation or circumstance. So I took a photo and showed it to her. Her eyes lit up in a way I cannot describe. The only word I can find for it is “joy.” Tears ran down her cheeks and she put a hand up to cover her jaw-dropped expression. This was the first photo she had ever seen of herself, and I was blessed with the rare opportunity to give her that gift.
This photo in particular is a joyful reminder. It reminds me of a moment when I was able to bring good into the world—a moment when I wasn’t a photographer, but I was a humanitarian, and the camera was just the tool I was able to use.
There is no uncertainty, and I am certainly not the first to point out that we live in a time of increasing and rampant self-absorption. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, rambling blog posts, followers, etc.
We surround ourselves with these things in order to compose a “photo” of ourselves–an image that we create and edit and perfect. But it is not truly us. It is the us that we want others to see. It is the us that we wish we were because we are not content with ourselves the way we are.
And that, I think, was the arrow that struck me.
We are not happy with ourselves in our true, bare, natural, created state.
But this young girl with dirt on her cheeks and sweat on her brow cannot contain the pure and innocent joy of seeing herself for the perfect and precious thing that she is.
There’s just something so overwhelmingly beautiful about this.
But where is this joy in us? Where is this innate beauty when we look in the mirror—when we look in our hearts and see who we are? It’s there, but why don’t we see it?
I can’t help but view this picture and then feel like we have done something terribly wrong. I can think of no better way to say it than that we have bastardized and prostituted some profound inner beauty inherent in us as humans.
We dress it up to look like something it isn’t, manipulate it to grab the attention of others, bask in that cheap glory, and then redress it again the next day in another way for more attention and more pretended affections.
But this girl was seeing herself as she was and loving it to the point of speechlessness.
There is something profound there—something begging conviction.
You are guilty.
I am guilty.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no delusions that these words are anything different than anything that has been said before, and to attempt to tackle the whole stream of our self-obsessed culture is absurd. But to not try would be tragic. And, for me, I’ll strive for a life of bold absurdity over one of calm tragedy.
Look and see the beauty that not only resides within you, but rests upon you. In all of your seeming imperfections and less than societally ideal qualities.
You are created.