It was an early morning, in fact, it was the earliest morning I've had in months. The first time I've seen the sun rise from the driver's seat, heard the birds chirping as soon as I stepped outside, and had a meeting scheduled before breakfast, in at least six months.
After coffee and discussing film and photography with an old friend it was time to get some work done for the day and hopefully, finish editing a photo shoot from a few days prior. I ordered a triple espresso, plugged in my headphones, and found the perfect playlist for the morning, a groovy mix of electronica and harmonics with a hint of creative inspiration.
As I started getting into the Lightroom flow, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye that immediately grabbed my attention, a blind man walking down the sidewalk by himself. He walked past the coffee shop, then came back and sat down on the bench right outside the front door.
I was immediately hit with a different type of inspiration then I'm used to. An inspiration forged mainly from guilt and shame, but inspiration none the less.
Guilty of not appreciating the simple things, and ashamed of how many experiences I have missed as a result of pursuing laziness. How many times have I pressed snooze in the past few months? How many colorful morning expressions of the sun meeting the sky like it's the first time happened while I was still in bed?
At this point the blind man had to have been sitting on that bench for around ten minutes, with a smile constantly on his face, completely content.
I began to wonder what his world must be like, what’s his inspiration? What motivated him to get out of bed and walk to the coffee shop at 8:30 am? What is he passionate about? How does he express his creativity?
While these questions about a complete stranger went rushing through my head, I started to realize the majority of my answers to these same questions are completely dependent on my eyes and being able to see.
Talk about a punch in the gut…when was the last time I was thankful just for the fact that I can see?
When you break it down to its core, a photographers only purpose is to produce something visually pleasing. I spend time looking for charming locations, then pairing them with clients. I manipulate light to create something not seen to the naked eye. I edit photos to either match or create the scene originally intended, and the final products soul purpose is to be looked at over and over again. None of this would be possible without sight.
An overwhelming sense of gratitude enveloped me in the middle of that coffee shop. I removed my headphones, closed my eyes and sat back in my chair, appreciating everything the gift of sight has given me over the past year.
"I realized it's been a while since I've truly sat in the presence of appreciation."
The past nine months have by far been the most trying of my life, and yet without my past, I wouldn't be in this coffee shop, genuinely appreciating everything life has to offer. All the good, the bad, the mundane, and the exciting. The type of things that are so common we don’t even realize others go without them most of the time.
If you are reading this, that means you have eyes that work, you were taught how to read at some point, you have access to the internet, and most likely that access is in your pocket twelve hours a day.
I’d like to challenge you to take a moment right now, regardless of where you are, and close your eyes. Listen to all the sounds that produce the environment your in. Focus on the faint noises in the background that get neglected the other 364 days a year.
Think about everything it took to get you to where you are right now. Consider what you may take for granted on a daily basis; access to an alarm to make sure you wake up on time, a working refrigerator that keeps food fresh, clean running water to wash your hair and brush your teeth.
Take a moment to appreciate everything mundane in you life and realize there are people who go without.
As I was sitting in the coffee shop doing that exact exercise, I noticed something…..the birds were singing. It could hardly be heard over all the chatter and ambient noises, but there they were, singing away.
Then it hit me, the blind man sitting outside the coffee shop, with a smile on his face, was listening to the birds. Who knows maybe he was appreciating the fact that he gets to hear such melodious songs and contemplating similar questions to the ones mentioned above.