I’m starting a new feature for the alumni magazine where I interview students who are attending the university to give our alumni a sense of what students are doing at their alma mater these days, and to give the students a connection to the alumni association. I had the pleasure of interviewing a student today who was handsome, funny, well spoken, well read, and very, very smart. I wish I would have had half of these qualities when I was only 19 years old. One of the questions I asked was where the student saw himself in 10 years. After thinking about it for several moments he said he wants to be making a difference in the world. He said it may be youthful naivete, but that he aspires to make a difference on a large scale (he mentioned the possibility of changing the world).
I thought about this response while walking my dog this evening. I remember having similar grand plans when I was that age. I would matter to the world. I would make a difference. My focus was on art, writing and the act of creating, but somehow I would be noticed. Once I entered the world of photojournalism, the idea became less about me being noticed and more about making powerful pictures, and affecting the viewer. And as I became dissatisfied with working in newspapers and decided to return to school to focus on writing, the idea became more about creating work I was happy with and expressing myself and my ideas in the best possible way. And over time, my desire to make a difference didn’t change, but my desire for it to be a difference on some large, Ghandi-like scale did. Over time I learned people make a difference every day in subtle ways, and I discovered I was happy to make that kind of difference too. I’m lucky to know that I did make a positive difference in at least one woman’s life. I photographed her and her family for the newspaper’s annual Season to Share, where they publish photographs and stories of people who could use some help during the holiday season. The program raises a lot of money and the year I photographed it was no different. I ran into that woman later, unexpectedly, at a crime scene I was sent to. She was there lending support to other members of the Haitian community who had been affected by the crime. When she saw me, she came over and gave me a hug and thanked me for helping her and her family with the project I photographed. She had been overwhelmed by the generosity that it resulted in, and attributed it to me and my camera. I know there were a lot of people involved in that project and the most important participants were the donors, but it was so nice knowing I played a role in helping someone out. So, whenever I think to myself, “I hope I’ve at least helped one person during this life of mine,” I’m fortunate enough to have the words of one woman who told me I did.
On a different note, after reading another blog where the blogger mentioned the program Freedom, I went out and bought it for myself. It’s designed to shut down your access to internet for a designated amount of time so that you can actually get some work done rather than fritter time away online. Well, let me tell you it works. And, let me tell you that I had NO IDEA how often I’m compelled to go online while working until I couldn’t go online. I’ve never had trouble getting my work done, but I always wonder if it takes longer than necessary because I find things to do online in between paragraphs I write. Today it became clear that, yes, I have a problem with the internet. It was like every five minutes while I was working a stray idea would pop into my head and I’d think, oh, I should look that up. And then I’d remember I couldn’t because my internet access was off. Quite an interesting experiment. Well, I wanted to log in briefly to post my thoughts from the evening walk. Now back to Freedom.