Tuesday, June 9

On Gratitude

Not so long ago, I signed up with a photo sharing site Flickr, and met some virtual friends who shared a mutual interest in photography. From their photostreams, I would find an overwhelming amount of inspiration and knowledge--in the way they perceive things, their techniques with the camera, their processing workflow, and more than anything, a slice of their personal lives...what they do, where they go to, who they are with. Where I stood, I had absolutely nothing much to show to my small newfound circle of friends, except photos of me and my family, especially that of my two little children. The camera I was using then was a 6megapixel point and shoot that my husband got me one Christmas. But in Flickr, it wasn't about your camera or your gear. It's first and foremost about the story you want to share. Then, it's about the people you share that story with.

You see, I had always thought there are certain things that polarize us human beings, that give us that explicit, glaring distinction from one another-- like good and evil, rich and poor, beautiful and ugly---and that sometimes, we are caught up in that grey area in between those two extremes, where we can't really point out where we belong. That's why we can be confused, or worst, delusional. But I also think that there are things that even us out, balance us, or to put it bluntly, equalize us, regardless of who we are and where we are at in our lives. And that is where Flickr comes to mind, as all other user-generated sites do, where everyone, and I mean everyone, can say and has a say.

A year into joining Flickr, I had made friends with a very kind couple who, from the little that I've gathered about them, are very artistic and are living a quiet albeit very successful life in Europe. They are also Pinoys who have ventured far, and simply put, are just blessed with everything, probably brought about by being both born with silver spoons. C is an artist, a painter, sculptor, singer--a beautiful woman with an even more beautiful spirit. I say this because I have once met her in person and I was just truly overwhelmed at the fact that she welcomed me with so much sincerity and warmth, that it was almost a little silly of me to act coy towards her, when she was trying to reach out like she'd known me for a long time. But you know, you get a little star struck with people whose personalities are just like the sun, you want to bask in their warmth, and yet they are too huge for you to take in suddenly? I wish my daughter, who I brought along with me when I met C, have already had the sense to know what a great experience she got into---because for me, that was something I would like for her to remember in a long, long time and when she grows up.

The other half of this couple is R, and he is the big reason why I continue on to try better at my photography. He was my very first friend, I suppose, in Flickr, and probably the most consistent one to rally me on to keep uploading my photos---and even my writing. Intelligent, artistic, on the same creative pursuits as his wife, and like all the other people who comment in my photostream, he says the kindest things, and appreciates the candidness conveyed especially by the images of my daughter Sophia. There is a great empathy in what he does, and though I am one to express my gratitude a little too sweepingly sometimes, I had never wished for more than just being able to relish the pleasant words being exchanged in the affable Flickr circle I was in--- a small circle of people from different parts of the earth, brought together and equalized by the same love of photography, looking through but beyond cultural differences, financial status, and skin color.

So it was indeed a tad too....what's the proper word.....well, I'd say humbling, yes that's how it felt really, humbling-- that one day, I'd get an email asking how I would like to have a DSLR. A digital single lens reflex camera? from a stranger friend? I mean, they're not strange people at all, but to be offered something like that from someone you'd never met---- and it’s certainly not just a box of chocolates, although a box of chocolates would have been prized just the same, it’s an expensive camera, darn it!---well don't things get a little too much twilight-zonish strange??? And do I say yes, or no? To be honest, it was a little embarrassing at first. I had to check whether I had insinuated about wanting to get a new camera, somewhere in my photo stream or blog, and probably yes I had, but I had wished it aloud, to myself, and no, I had not wanted to impose that wish on anyone, outside of myself. But again, if a person had very magnanimously offered you something he owns, because he felt that he had learned much from it and would like to pass it on to you so you can benefit from it the same way, and simply because he believes you got a chance at something, do you refuse? out of tact, or pride, or sheer embarrassment? I had to struggle with it all for a while. I just realized though, that refusing the offer, would have meant a lot more--- letting a good person down, letting myself down, letting my dreams down. And it was something I thought I would hate to regret about someday. And yes...., I said yes.

Far from suddenly owning a precious object, absolutely free of charge, what was even more humbling was the value of a person’s trust and friendship that comes with it. That even though the selfless act of giving was something I l had long convinced myself of as entirely real, there is a definitive part of me that feels I have the responsibility to emulate this kindness in the everyday things that I do. Not that I’ve never been kind. I believe that I had done my fair share in the compassion department, without heralding those few things. But when luck falls on your lap, as big and as overwhelming as this one, you can’t help but feel that you must be accountable to take care of it and make it grow, and love it with all your might, and spread it far and wide, so that others will also sow and eventually reap the same seed of kindness. A little act indeed maybe for people like Clarissa and Ramon.......but I just had to have grand illusions about it.

And again, it is never too late, or out of fashion, to say THANK YOU.
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