Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lessons from the Ministry of Encouragement.

I am a "charter" member and admin for a Facebook group called the Creative Group at Bedlam Farm. The group was founded by author, neighbor and friend Jon Katz almost two years ago. Jon entitled it a "ministry of encouragement". He had seen too many talented people, with lots to say, not saying it, not using their voices, for a lack of encouragement and positive feedback. I'm honored to be a part of it, and am only too slowly learning its lessons.

In January of this year we went to Florida to visit my parents. While we were there, Jay really began to notice how important photography was to me, and how exciting a good shot could be. One evening he asked for my camera. I handed it to him and showed him how to aim and push the shutter button.

He slammed away, shot after shot, of the ceiling fan, the counter, the floor, the couch, half of Grandma, Grampa's feet, whatever ended up in front of him. He was discovering how satisfying the click of a shutter can be, can feel, can sound. He was loving making something with his own hands and eyes.

And dad, the photographer, the most important voice in this, was clueless.

We sat and looked at his pictures. I deleted several along the way, then more, and at some point he took his slumped shoulders and went to the bedroom. He closed the door behind him.

I walked in and asked him if something was wrong.

"I take TERRIBLE pictures."

It would be hard to feel as crushed as he did, but I was close.

It didn't really matter what was in his pictures. They were HIS, and they were what he saw. It was fun. It was magic. Until dad and the "delete" button stepped in.

What an ass.

I am OH so grateful for the resilience of the young.

I got a second chance today.

We went to the West Pawlet rail trail. I took a few pictures of Jay on his Strider bike (thanks to our friend Zachary for the loan). He wanted to take my picture. Then pictures of the trail. And the trees. And the river. And the caterpillar. And me. Again. The shutter clicked and clacked in that satisfying way, and I loved watching him shoot. After almost every shot he wanted to show me his work. We chimped over every one. They were, all in all, pretty amazing. Some of that has to do with his increased strength (he can now more or less hold the camera level), and the amazing cognitive development that can happen in a three-year-old's mind in only three-plus months.

Moreso, it had to do with me offering a little guidance and lots of encouragement and letting him go.

Oh, it was hard to see my camera hit the ground and get dragged around a bit. My tongue is a bit sore from biting it, but he is happy and excited to be a photographer again.

A little guidance. Lots of encouragement. Honoring his voice while maintaining respect (we talked about why it would be inappropriate to take pictures of the strangers approaching us before we asked their permission). Allowing him to feel magic. 

It's so simple.

But, I learned a long time ago that there is a very, very big difference between "simple" and "easy."

He was excited to see his pictures on Facebook tonight, and to hear people's comments. He feels encouraged and connected, and maybe a little bit magic. 

He's three years old. That's how life should feel.

Actually, it's a good way for all of us to feel.

A few of Jay's shots from today:

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