Back in January, I found a volunteer opportunity with a Long-term care facility here in Denver. They were looking for a photographer to go on-site and take portraits of the seniors’ who called the facility home with the intent of decorating the walls with the portraits. After months and months of waiting, today was the day…
I guess I hadn’t spent an enormous amount of time thinking about how folks would be, or if they would be well enough for photos/interactions, etc. I had spent days studying, reading, practicing and preparing on the technical side so that I would be ready to provide the highest level of technical expertise.
I arrived early, nervous and sweaty with excitement and anticipation. I was relieved when the receptionist greeted me with a big smile, she had me sign in on a clipboard, pinned a badge to my shirt, and whisked me away to a large sun-filled room with a smell that reminded me of my grandpa’s bathroom; a nostalgic mixture of Listerine, Allspice and Colgate toothpaste. One by one the residents were wheeled in, and with each new face I felt more and more excited to get started, and more and more sure that I really have found my calling….
Nearly all of the residents were dealing with some form of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or post-stroke rehabilitation. Only a few could tell me their name, but it really didn’t matter to me that we couldn’t speak with words, not one bit. You see, as I started taking their portraits I started telling my story, silly times and stories about my niece, how I met my husband, my joys – dumb things I’ve done. I tried to capture smiles, but more than that I tried to capture that moment when recognition flashed from distant eyes, that brief flicker I could only hope was one of awareness. My hope was that maybe something from my goofy stories and ramblings had helped to create a moment of recognition that they were still here, still beautiful, and still worthy of love, attention and a beautiful photo.
The staff thanked me as I left, but it is I who felt grateful, and I who feels the need to humbly thank them too. I chose to post only a handful of photos today, and so I chose my favorite captures from a highly emotional and deeply moving experience…
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop