Waves crash on the beach of an island in the Indian ocean of the east coast of Africa.
Another year, another birthday.
It happens and the world keeps spinning.
Then a friend asks, “How you feelin’ about turning 30?” Well, I guess that means I should take time to reflect…
Life isn’t what I thought it would be as I turn 3 decades old. Life hasn’t come close to all those fairy tales and family sitcoms that I grew up on. I come from a broken family and with a father that died before I got out of college. I spent 2 years in the corporate world that I thought I would love but ended up hating, only to find myself jobless and homeless for a few months. Now as a freelancer, more times than I care to admit to, I’ve seen the dark gloom of checking accounts dropping below $100 and edging closer and closer to 0. And as the third decade rolls around I’m plenty single with no clear signal for a wife and 2.5 kids with the white picket fence in the immediate future. This fact becomes glaringly obvious with almost every one of my closest friends having their second child, with every failed relationship and with every good intentioned “How are you not married yet?!”
No, my life has been a far cry from what most would call the “norm”. And some days, it’s really hard to live outside the norm. Some days, the lack of stability, the anxiety of not knowing when or where my next paycheck will come from, the aloneness, and the comparison to other friends my age can be out right suffocating. Yes, I’m thirty, and no, my life isn’t what anyone could’ve predicted.
It’s easy to focus on the worst parts of a plan gone completely awry. But, if you look at the whole of my life, that broken path isn’t as horrific as a pessimist might view it.
Men celebrate the marriage of another man in the village
Coming from a divorced family when I was once such a shy homebody made me branch out and become independent (and interdependant all at the same time), something that would serve me well as a freelancer. I learned to hold my own instead of depending on the handouts of my family, as I was so used to.
Caring for my ailing father and dealing with his eventual death gave me a compassion for others as well as a keen interest in medicine, which is how I’ve ended up overseas as much as I have.
Getting a business degree and working corporate for the time I did has given me the business acumen to run a business, and it also exposed the need for personal interactions and creative outlets that I thrive off of.
The threat of failing funds has shown me a dependence on God that I’ve never really known. I can put the plow to the soil, but it’s only The Lord that can make it rain. So in all my efforts for financial success, I can only give credit to the Creator that sustains me.
And my singleness has allowed me to travel to foreign soils over 30 times before I even hit 30 years of age. I’ve jumped from the world’s largest waterfall. I’ve fed wild hyenas while they jumped on my back. I’ve seen more stars in the sky than you could count in a lifetime. I’ve eaten things that still frighten me to this day. I’ve walked though infested waters in Ethiopia and in the beautiful streets of Paris and Istanbul. I’ve made dear friendships across the globe, speaking dozens of languages, heard stories of pain and suffering, and hope and redemption.
Two men stand on an old turret overlooking a city in Ethiopia.
Yes, my life hasn’t looked anything remotely like the great corporate dream. This life is not always easy. In fact, it’s pretty tough. But I wouldn’t trade this for the cookie cutter life for anything. The past 30 years have been an absolute roller coaster, definitely not suited for some, but as Henry David Thoreau said in his famous “Walden”, “I [want] to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…” Maybe I haven’t lived life quite as passionately all of the past 30 years, but, as long as God grants me it, I plan to do so for the next 30 years. So here’s to being 30 years old, to living a life off the beaten path, to making an impact that lasts beyond me. Here’s to breaking the mold and living a life worth dying for.
I sent out this little video to a lot of my friends, clients, and supporters a few days ago. I’ll post a longer post with a more robust 2012 recap. But to anyone that I left off the email, and to anyone else that has been in any way involved with my life or my work, here’s a little thank you from me to you. Hope you enjoy it.
Click Here if you can’t see the imbedded video.
For most people, it’s not every day that you find yourself standing outside a van while a very prominent pimp is helping fix a blown out tire while a female prostitute has her arm around one of the other female passengers, being loved on while sipping on the coffee you gave her. But this was my night the first time I went out with LightForce International for their street outreach. When you work regularly with male, female and transvestite prostitutes, sometimes a pimp is the best option when you have a blown tire and no jack. And while my Tuesday nights aren’t typically catching up with my friends as they work the streets and hustle the cars passing by, I loved being able to witness love being extended to persons who are the subject of trafficking, rape, mockery, disgust, and so many other forms of abuse. Some friends who have been a part of this outreach had hard times processing what was going on, but I was overwhelmed not by the darkness, but by the love being poured out from both sides to bridge gaps, give grace, and show how we can have a little bit more of heaven on earth. Check out Light Force International to see how you can be a part at www.lightforceintl.com.
Hitting the streets with LightForce
Conversations with friends, who happen to be prosititutes.
One of the transvestites was interested in taking English classes.
Happy Birthday singing to one of the other transvestites! She got cake a few days later.
So much of this industry is veiled and swept under the rug. That gives way when you actually get to know each person as a real person.
A 40-yr old prostitute who has been on the streets for over 20 years has her arm around her friend that is there to just love on her.
It’s amazing what a hot cup of coffee and a warm hug will do to tell someone that you love them.
The most surprising to me were the male prostitutes who seemed just like every day guys that loved playing futbol.
Even guys get trafficked and forced to sell their bodies, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Thankfully, the team at LFI are there to show a redemption to the streets that keep so many men, women and children in a hellish prison.
290 elementary students.
80 reported cases of abuse.
16 reported cases of rape.
That’s just what was reported. In one class, 50% of the students had been sexually abused. Yet on this day, there were 290 bright smiles and deafening laughter. The principal of the school said he had never seen like this before, as he held back tears of thankfulness. LightForce International, in conjunction with efforts from other organizations, churches and the school counselors, came to this elementary in a materially poor area to tell these children that they have value and worth and that they have every right to say no. But along with this message, came games, crafts, snacks, healthy discussion, and hope. To find out more about how you can get involved with LightForce International, check out their website at www.lightforceintl.com.
Teaching the 4 points
I have the right to say NO
children at risk
Creating paper ornaments with the teachings on them.
Coloring sheets to illustrate the 4 points
Coloring sheets to illustrate the 4 points
Every child loves to play.
Some of these haven’t laughed and played this much in years.
Face painting was the popular pace to be.
Even for the boys
One of the school counselors really poured herself out to talk to these kids during the Q&A session
Some of these questions were gut wrenching, but life was able to be spoken.
Hip-hop artist, Trip Lee, finished his Good Life tour in Dallas, TX on June 1st to a crowd of over 1000. As the tour finale, Trip was joined with Collision Records artist, Swoope, along with fellow Reach Records artists, V-Rose, Jai, Andy Mineo, Alex Medina, KB, Tedashii, and Lecrae. A special appearance was made by Tedashii’s son, after he ‘accidentally’ rapped Go Hard (one of his father’s tracks) over the speakers during Andy Mineo’s set. To say the least, this show did not disappoint. This was the perfect ending for a tour celebrating Trip’s latest album, The Good Life.
Trip Lee during sound check
Trip Lee observing sound check from the audience
Backstage, getting ready
Pre-game encouragement and prayer
Andy Mineo during his song, "Let There Be Light"
Andy Mineo 1-1-6
Tedashii & Lecrae getting some air during a throwback to Tedashii's "Go Hard"
Alex Medina on the mic
Trip Lee in the smoke
Trip spitting his rhymes
Tedashii's son wanted to come out on stage
So he did during the encore
The Good Life....get it now.
Espresso, Steamed Milk, Baristas, and Art. Get all of those together with a little competition and you have the TNT Barista Jam! Over a year ago, I attended my first Barista Jam at Oddfellows (see my blog post about it). So I came back at the beginning of this month to document the actual competition. Lotta caffeine that night…
The crowd awaits at Oddfellows
Preparing the espresso shots
Working side by side
Steaming the milk with the La Marzocco
Pouring the design
The judges await for the designs
Final design....so tasty
You can see more pictures from the night on my Facebook page.
“When you are a parent, you lose sleep when you don’t know what is wrong with your child and you don’t know how to help. For the past 6 months, I have not been able to sleep because I didn’t know what I could do for my son. But now you have given my son help, so next time you see me, I will be a much fatter man!” (Because he’ll be able to sleep now).
“Before I came here, I didn’t think there was any hope for either of my children. I just wanted the best for them, but I didn’t think they could be helped. But now you have given them hope for their future. Thank you so much. God bless.”
These were just some of the things said to the CLASP International team and the ENT Clinic Staff at Kijabe Hospital in Kijabe, Kenya. For 2 weeks, we saw dozens of patients needing audiology exams and were able to provide several with new hope for life with solar powered hearing aids. The lives of young and old alike were given new hope because the simple joy of hearing the sounds of everyday life were now available to them.
The stories don’t end there, however. Not only were the immediate lives impacted, but through the masters level programs that CLASP is implementing in conjunction with the local universities, even more lives stand to be impacted through Kenyans who have been given this specialized training. So yes, several Kenyans can now hear, but through the long-term projects being implemented, generations ahead can look with hope to being able to hear and speak or have access to specialed care.
Solar Powered Hearing Aids
Halvin & Calvin
Solar Powered Charger
Brian & Friends
On the Bike
In August of 2011, I went with CLASP International to Lusaka, Zambia to film the work they are doing over there. To catch you up, they are implementing a Masters Level program to train Zambian speech pathologists so they can go throughout their country to provide for much needed services to children and adults with disabilities. While we were there, we helped establish the sites where clinicals will be held for students, so I got to be a part of the amazing work that CLASP is doing. Go visit www.CLASPInternational.org to see what they’re doing. You’ll also be able to watch the 2 videos I produced for them.
Some things are meant to be compared...
Today’s post is one of those Preach To Myself posts. It’s one of those lessons that, while I know it well, I still have to continue to live out well. So if you think I’m writing about you, you’re wrong. This is one of those talking to myself, but out loud to the world kind of moments.
There’s nothing more suffocating, more soul-sucking, more poisonous than comparing yourself to others. It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the web of looking at what everyone else is doing. ”Hey, look at what Photographer X is shooting!” “Look at how much money Photographer Y is making.” ”What great opportunities always come up for Photographer Z!” Meanwhile, you’re stuck there thinking, “Wait…why am I not there?” That’s around the start of what I like to call “The Cycle of Suck”. We all know that cycle, right? It’s the one where you start looking at what one photographer is doing, and you get depressed that that’s not you. Then you keep looking at other photographers until you realize everyone that you just stalked is doing something that you’d like to be doing but you’re not. And you get more depressed. Then you find yourself laying on the couch with no lights on, drinking cheap red wine out of the box with an almost empty bag of Cheeto’s, while watching some old 80′s kung fu flick. You’ve done that before, right? No? Yeah, me either.
Anyways, for some reason, I got that feeling today. I started thinking about what other photographers were doing, and I got a little bit jealous, then a bit down on myself. This time, however, didn’t lead to any orange cheese stains on the couch. I reminded myself that I’m not necessarily in the same fields as Photographer X, Y, and Z (and I may not even want to be). But the old adage that says something like “Great work will get noticed” provided me an opportunity. If I’m not where I want to be, then I sure as hell better get back to producing as much Awesome as I can manage. When you’re working your tail off to capture great images and telling amazing stories, there’s not a lot of time to sit around and mope and complain about how you’re not this or that. Whiners and complainers and self-deprecating Eeyore’s are wasting their time griping when they could be working on being better than they are or at least seeing the world better than they do.
So there you have it Self. Get off the couch, stop drinking crappy wine, and get busy producing Awesome.