I stood there in the kitchen of that lovely farm house, taking a deep breath as I processed what I had just been told.
The girl standing before me at this social function had opened up the conversation with, “Are you the one who’s been taking pictures at the Veterans Center?” I had never met her before and didn’t quite know how to respond. I had partnered with the Veteran’s Center on a few photography projects and speaking engagements over the last few months, helping them roll out their “Make-A-Wish” program for their nursing home, but I didn’t quite know which of the various events I had been a part of that she was referring to. The most recent being a sleigh ride, along with a “Winterfest” dance held in the nursing home dining hall.
She looked at me with sweet eyes and said, “You took pictures of my grandpa. Thank you.” She then proceeded to tell me that he had passed away the previous week and they had used the pictures I had taken in his obituary. They didn’t have any recent pictures of him until the nursing home provided them. Evidently it was a pleasant surprise in their time of loss and she wanted to tell me how grateful they were. Stunned, I didn’t know what to say. Taking a moment to process what she had just told me, I gave her a hug and started asking questions about her grandfather.
This is not the first time I had been given this kind of thank you. Two summers ago I took some family portraits for a rather large set of grand kids, hired by one very proud grandma of seven that were in town visiting her for a few days. While at their family bar-b-que (after snapping all the kiddos) I had taken individual photos of all the adults, including some smoochie couple shots of some of their various family friends that were also in attendance. Smoochie shots are my favorite. This is a practice I learned early on while interning under a wedding photographer in California. He drilled into me to always hunt down and get the grandparent pics, along with seeking out individual shots of other key players whenever possible. “Ashlee, no one really ever asks for or particularly likes getting individual shots of themselves taken, but since you’ve been hired and you’re the photographer, take the initiative and do it for them. They’ll thank you for it later.”
Those words have never felt more true.
Recently I learned that the random couple that had been in attendance at that laid-back BBQ had both unexpectedly and tragically passed away within a week of each other this last fall. The shots that I had taken that summer day were the ones used at their service, beautifully printed on large canvas frames displayed by the caskets. I was told by one of the funeral attendees later on that those pictures will be forever treasured and had brought such comfort for the family. I’ve shot over a hundred weddings and countless portrait sessions since beginning my little photo business and although I know all of those are special moments, that was the first time I felt like my photography ever really made a difference. Those photos mattered.
Fast forward to that moment in the farm house kitchen and I was so touched that this woman had the courage to tell me this. I couldn’t help but think, thank you Lord for giving me the opportunity to do this for them. Don’t ever let me miss a moment like this. Every now and then we get a brief glimpse of how God is working through us to help someone else. It’s mind boggling.
It’s not something we often think about–how what we do on an everyday basis may be affecting the lives of others. It really is the little things in life that make a difference. We can be good to people that will have a ripple effect in ways that we will never know about this side of heaven. Whether we know it or not, what we do matters.
Packing that lunch every day matters. Changing those sheets, making that daily commute, picking up the phone when we don’t really feel like it, filling up her gas tank unrequested, tying those little shoes yet again, or grabbing that quick kiss goodbye as we head out the door–it matters. When what we do feels insignificant, monotonous, unappreciated, or like it’s not making one iota of a difference–maybe one day, if we’re lucky, we’ll get a moment in a kitchen to realize that it does.
Ashlee Bratton – author of the book “Life Before The Lottery: Living Beyond The Bucket” is a professional photographer, freelance writer, and inspirational speaker with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and master’s degree in business administration.
Along with completing 29 of the 30 things on her 30×30 list, her writing contributions include numerous publications such as Vail’s EAT magazine, creating a 56 page Visitor Guide for a mountain ski town, blogging and guest blogging, being featured in multiple newspapers and e-zines, and various other projects.
Currently, she keeps her camera in hand in Southern Colorado, is a complete and total foodie, and takes plane rides for fun. She likes things that go.