“Come on Dewitt, what’s here to celebrate?”
It’s a simple question Dewitt asks in his film, Celebrate What’s Right with the World. When I began asking the question for myself, I discovered that it may indeed be simple, but it’s impact is game changing.
It’s an encouraging question that nudges me to go beyond just looking at what’s around me. It coaches me to see with new eyes, opening the moment for me to see with my heart and mind as well. My favourite example of this happened in San Francisco.
Ready with a good pair of walking shoes and a firm grip on my camera, we had just one day to enjoy the beautiful city. My photographic skills were amateur at best, but I was hungry to capture some of the culture and charm the Bay area was famous for. We hit the streets and I spent the first hour or two filling my SD card with hundreds of images. Average, lackluster images. Not a keeper in the bunch.
Our time in SF was ticking away, and remembering Dewitt’s question, I mentally grabbed myself by the scruff of the neck and asked, “Come on Lauri, what’s here to celebrate? In that moment, I had a mental shift. It was as if a pair of underwater goggles were removed from my face – my pace slowed, I felt open and present. I began to notice architectural lines, colors, shadows, and faces. One face in particular, to this day, is one of my favourite photographs I’ve been given to date.
He was standing on a street corner playing the drums, and had a distant, uninspired look on his face. Something about him though was drawing me in. I watched him for a moment or two, and then we locked eyes. I gestured with my camera as a way of asking for permission to take some photos of him. He graciously nodded.
With each shutter click, the light in his eyes shone brighter. His posture changed, his shoulders straightened, his face softened, and his drumming became more vibrant. Through my lens I watched his energy light up that street corner, prompting more and more people to pause and watch him perform.
I'm not sure who was having a better time though, him or me. Within a few moments I lowered my camera to my waist and the two of us started laughing together. I mean LAUGHING… that 'bending-forward, mouth-wide-open, eyes-all-squinty’ kind of laughter. We weren’t laughing about anything in particular, we were both just fully immersed in the joy of our shared experience.
We didn’t know each other’s stories, and our obvious physical differences; different genders, different hair, different colouring, different dental history, maybe even different nationalities, had NOTHING to do with the joy we were each feeling about our connection. The source of our laughter came from what we shared in common – being human, exploring our respective creativity on the same corner in San Francisco at the same time, while encountering a pure, joyful connection with a total stranger, and not a word spoken.
It’s not just a question. For me it has become a practice that allows me to slip on a celebratory lens, giving me sights, experiences, and connections I may very well have missed otherwise.
There’s a whole-lot-a-right in the world to be celebrated if we’re seeing with our mind, heart and eyes.
Mine are peeled, who’s with me?