When I feel stressed or overwhelmed with work, I often pick up my camera and go. This morning I went to a park by the river to take some shots of a waterfall. While I was shooting the waterfall, a man was trimming a tree with his bare hands. I initially thought the man worked for the parks and recreation department, but when he moved closer, I saw that he wore ragged jeans and a dirty shirt instead of a uniform. There was no park & recreation vehicle nearby. On the bench in front of the waterfall was a jacket and an over-stuffed backpack. I presumed they belonged to the tree-trimming man. I think he may have been homeless. His diligence and skill with the tree trimming impressed me. I think he trimmed the tree simply because it needed trimming. After he finished trimming the tree, he sat on the bench next to the jacket and backpack. As he rested and regrouped on the bench, I captured this shot, just as he rubbed his face with his rugged, dirty hands.
From first glance, I loved this photo. Later at home I showed it to my family with great pride and excitement. My husband asked questions about how close I was to the man and whether or not it was safe to be that close to a man I didn’t know and boldly snapping his picture. He said nothing about the aesthetic value of the photo. He didn’t ask about the man in the photo. My daughter said she didn’t like the photo. She said she doesn’t care for black and white photography and that nothing about the photo jumped out at her. My son simply asked, “Who is that man?” No one saw the beauty I did. I saw strength, initiative and love in the man in my photo. The dirt under his bitten fingernails, the curls in his greying hair, and the wrinkles in his sunburned skin all spoke to me. I saw beauty in the man and art in my capture of the man. I wondered about the journey of his life. But they didn’t see what I saw. I felt a little rejected by my family because they didn’t think the photo I so proudly presented was spectacular and I have to admit, it hurt.
But I had to realize that just because my family didn’t see the photo as beautiful, doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. I was reminded of that today. My family wasn’t trying to reject me or hurt me. They just saw the photo differently. Their opinions don’t take away from the impact the tree-trimming man had on me. The photo is still beautiful…to me.
The lesson. Sometimes in life we are rejected by those closest to us. Rejection hurts. Real talk. But we don’t have to become defensive or distant in the midst of this hurt. Try to believe the best of those who hurt you. The rejection may not have been intentional. And even if it was, don’t stop seeing the beauty in you and the things you do. (When my family left the room, I prayed for the man in the photo. I prayed that God would bless him with favor and protection and that all of his needs would be met. And then I prayed that God would protect me from pride and ego so that I don’t so easily feel rejected.)
Donations to help him, and beautiful people like him, can be made here.