This year’s Help-Portrait wasn’t my first time to photograph this quietly dignified man in his electric wheelchair, wife standing by his side. But this time was different. After I’d snapped a few shots—thinking we’d finished—he said, “I want to stand.”
Honestly, at first I thought he was joking.
With help, he stood on his leg, his only leg, the empty wheelchair on one side and his wife on the other. Although she held him, he rose so straight and tall that it looked as if he supported her.
After one shot he slumped back into his wheelchair. When I showed them the image on the back of my camera, he and his wife nodded, “The kids are going to like this. The kids are going to like this.”
“How many children do you have?” I asked.
“Six,” they replied. Six children who probably haven’t seen their daddy stand in years.
I handed the memory card to another volunteer who would process the images and felt tears sting as I turned back to my station.
I don’t know him by name. We’ll see each other no more than once a year, if ever again. However, this gentleman and I share a bond forged by my lens between us. Together we captured a moment, a moment that represents the man he still is on the inside and that he wants his children to remember.
We didn’t physically restore his broken body, but I believe that photograph will ministered to his spirit for years to come. I wish I could see his face this Sunday when he’ll receive a framed copy, and later the faces of his family (in my imagination he and his wife haven’t told them: it’s a surprise).
A camera is more than a tool in your hands. The images it produces can restore lost dignity. They can heal. With good intentions, it’s an instrument that can be used to bestow blessings in a mighty way.
As I drove to the housing authority last Saturday I prayed that God would use me—my hands, my camera—to bless others that day. I’d forgotten that a gift given is often equally a gift received.