I just recently had the privilege of displaying this photograph in an art exhibit and my caption read, “One man gave me an arrow, another man preached, but this one listened.”
I never got his name and I never understood a word he said. You’d think with my interpreter, Joyce, just across the room, I would have asked her to come over and help, but for some reason I didn’t. My time with this man was brief. He uttered a couple words, but I could only translate his hand gestures. Yet even with the lack of words, a few minutes with him changed my life for eternity.
After taking this photograph, I sat down next to him and we began to sift through my photographs. He pointed at his photograph, and then pointed to his chest, as if he was asking “Is that me?” I nodded “Yes, yes it is.” with a big smile. We let out a few chuckles and smiled at one another. Nothing else needed to be said. We continued looking through more photographs together as the time passed.
Every time I look at this photograph, I remember the short time with him. Being with people like him, well, let’s just say no matter how short the time, it becomes a life-giving and invigorating memory. We didn’t need to speak the same language to understand each other. A simple photograph would do. Without any words, we bonded.
As a writer, I believe words have an unbelievable power. Yet the photographer in me would say, sometimes you don’t need words. Sometimes words are not enough. And so much of the time, photographs connect us in ways words cannot. In a situation where we cannot speak to one another, grace arrives in the form of photographs, forging a bond deeper than any word could create.
Every time I see this photo I remember why I do what I do. I believe in the power of photographs. They freeze memories in time. They open our eyes to things we overlook. They slow us down. Photographs are a means of grace, allowing us to be with people and relive memories that we once rushed through.