A thing I have learned in this career is to be damn grateful, for life, for passion, for undeserved talent and equally undeserved recognition. All too often it is all too easy to think the detractors that inhibit us from grasping one more token of self worth are amongst any that live on the shoulders of those that aren’t as fortunate, and this false. Periodically life will slip us a little truth in perspective, and for me some came the day after I turned 30.
I was on set (yes, I shot the day after my 30th birthday) at the Salvation Army’s new community center in Phoenix. Beautiful in every way from its aesthetics to the mission, the core of its reason is selflessly helping those that are in need. To my surprise this facility was state of the art, from the equipment to the amenities and the people that staffed it, I must admit I was delightfully surprised. Offered a tour, I gladly accepted what would be the most fortunate heartbreak I have had in some time.
Walking the many areas of the center, a large gym, a swimming pool, a theater, and multiple classrooms, the guide stopped at the top of the stair case, before a large window that looked over the absolutely impoverished community that surrounded the center. “Look” he said, “look at how beautiful this view is.” … I was almost inquisitive to what I was missing, and not in any way challenging his passion for the community, I paused, and said nothing.
He then said, “this view is magnificent because many of the children that this center will help have never seen the 2nd floor.”
Take a second to think about that. He was telling me that seeing out the window of the 2nd floor was a privilege. Further he went on to explain to me that every kid in the center has a zone of just over a block that they are “safe”. Venture outside this area and the kids risk being beaten or even murdered for being in another gang’s territory.
This rendered me speechless for a bit. I was beyond humbled, I was hurt. Hurt for the human condition, and my uselessness to society to do anything about so many I will most likely never know. Call it a bleeding heart, call it overly sympathetic, hell, call it weak for all I care… as long as you can respect the privilege you have to call it anything at all.
Politics aside, religion aside, business aside, popularity aside:
The next time you want to complain about that shoot that netted you $1,000 too little, or brag about the one that made you $10,000 too much, guard your lips. Be it next to you or through the hypothetic grapevine, there is someone that has finally seen the 2nd floor. Numbers that you and I may deal with on a daily basis may be seen in another man’s yearly salary, and your humility may be the wall that keeps someone’s spirit intact. Step forward and make yourself venerable to making someone else’s day better, question what it would mean to a charity to have just one of your day rates…. then make it happen.
Forget erring on the side of compassion, and live on the side of compassion.