What Will Your Resolution Be?

Been down so long that is seems like up,
I took it now I’ve had enough
Of the life that I’ve been livin’
It feels so cold this far away
So Today I will make a change
I will make a change today
Purge my mind of mud and mire
Cast all my gods away
I am brand new today, I make my resolution

– OC Supertones

Like most people who make New Year’s resolutions, I usually fail to keep them the whole year.  I think there is  part of me that struggles with the idea of an annual commitment when I know that most of us are not likely to succeed in keeping them.  To be honest, I don’t really like the concept of a New Year’s resolution. Why do we wait for one day of the year to commit to doing something to improve our lives or the lives of others?  How much better would the world be if we treated everyday like New Year’s Day?

Now to some the idea of a new resolution everyday may seem flawed.  What is the point of only keeping a resolution one day?  Does it become obsolete the following day when we make a new one?  Can I have the same resolution 2 days in a row?  Is it possible to work on more than one resolution at once?  Wow, this is complicated… or is it?  What if we all decided each day to do something out of the ordinary? Buy a co-worker lunch, send a handwritten note of thanks, send home flowers for no reason, or maybe do something nice for a friend anonymously.

Do something for somebody everyday for which you do not get paid.    Author: Albert Schweitzer

What would happen if a group of people came together to work on a collective resolution?  What could a church, small group, community or a whole city accomplish? How much easier would it be to keep our resolution if we had someone to walk beside us and encourage us and we encourage them in return?

So what is my challenge?  There are many personal goals that are worthwhile and worthy of me pursuing.  For some people it is to quit smoking, eat healthier, or exercise more.  These are all important and I would encourage everyone to look at any lifestyle changes that are going to improve your health.  However, there is a longing inside of me to do something that is external and would mean more to those around me, maybe even in my own home.  This is the year that I hopefully take that giant step and move outside my comfort zone and follow through on my own resolution.

It's a New Day - Dear Island, NB

Like taking a photograph to help us remember a special moment or place, a resolution can be a way to help us remember to make the world better than we found it.

It’s the Little Things that Matter

I once saw a “life lesson” posted on someone’s desk that said something to the effect of “If it won’t matter in 10 minutes or 10 years then don’t worry about it”.  It stuck with me and as I get older I try not to let the small stuff get to me.  Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not.  I find that getting older and being married with children the things that were important in my youth aren’t any longer.

Sometimes l do have to admit that I find the little things interesting when it comes to my photography.  I really enjoy looking for the obscure and small when I’m outside exploring and looking for a subject to create an image with.  There is something inside of me that is in awe and wonder of the small parts of creation just as much as the enormous.   For some people photographic appreciation comes from a scene of mountain peaks or vast oceans, but there is something about the macro I find compelling.  Why did God put so much detail in such a small creature or flower?  It makes me wonder how many images I have missed because I was thinking big instead of small.

Being child-like can help us discover the little things that matter

Maybe it is my children who have given me this appreciation.  They love to explore digging under rocks or looking in the ponds and lakes around our neighborhood looking for unusual wildlife or insects.  They have a natural curiosity that some of us have lost as we mature.  We get older and have a tendency to lose appreciation for the small stuff and become obsessed with the bigger things in life; bank accounts, bigger cars, homes and TV’s.  Why do we, myself included, have an obsession with big? Do we feel more important, more confident, more satisfied?

Goslings - Quispamsis, New Brunswick

A few years ago I was introduced to the story of “The Starfish” and the tale of how the small actions of one small person can make a big difference.  No, we can individually solve world hunger or climate change but we can all do something small to make a difference.  The lesson has stuck with me and helps me to remember that sometimes it is the little things that matter.

Starfish - Huntsman Aquarium - St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Back to School

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
John Wooden

I had an opportunity to go back to school this week, not as a student but as the teacher.  I forgot what it was like to walk into a strange school for the first time and have no idea where I was going and not know a single person.  It was déjà vu of school for me except I wasn’t the short freckle faced kid; I was the old guy with a goatee and the furniture seemed a bit smaller than I remember.

I was asked by a friend if I would like to talk to a middle school group of students that get together every week for a club they call Solid Rock. They came to hear me speak about being a Christian, a photographer and as someone who is concerned about environmental issues and how they all tie together for me.  I’ll admit, even though the audience was young and likely had little to no expectations, I was still nervous.  As the father of three, including a middle school boy, I should be able to relate but I spent most of the week before struggling to prepare and wondering what my message should be.

I came to the conclusion that I would just share how I arrived at the point in my life when I decided I wanted to campaign for environmental issues.  I don’t think of myself as an environmentalist.  I think of it as a natural fit as a Christian and how I want to be a good steward of what God created for us.  It is as old as Genesis.  It has also become personal as the father of an asthmatic. I have watched many days and nights as she has struggled not being able to breathe, sometimes even requiring emergency room care.

As it turns out they were all great kids and I was the one who learned something that day.  They were so full of ideas and enthusiastic about the opportunity they had to make a difference.  They talked as a group about cleaning up garbage around their school, doing more recycling, and other changes they could make in their school and neighborhood.  They accomplished more in 45 minutes as 11-13 year olds than some meetings I have been in with adults for several hours.   We all need to be more child-like and just do something.

I read an article recently by Tony Dungy titled “Where Have All the Role Models Gone” in which he shares some insights into the lives of pro athletes and how our youth look up to them only to be let down quite often.  I’ve been there many times myself as a fan of sports.  I don’t usually think of myself as a role model but that day in the classroom the kids seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.  The defining moment for me was when a young girl named Shannon came to me after the presentation and asked me for my autograph. I obliged and initially laughed it off with a bit of silly humor but after leaving and replaying the day in my head my feelings towards the conversation with Shannon changed. It made me realize the influence we have as adults on our youth with the words we speak and the way we act.  It was at this moment I realized we as adults are all role models whether or not we want to. We just need to decide what kind of a role model we are going to be.

Do you know who is watching you?

Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.  –  Peter McWilliams

Several years ago I had the privilege of attending a two day personal development session on leadership.  The goals were simple; to help expand upon our strengths and to assist us with recognizing our weaknesses. One of the facilitators assisting with the training was a lady named Debbie.   Debbie shared some of the greatest wisdom I heard during those two days, and left me with a statement that has become a constant reminder for me when I face different challenges in my life.  Debbie’s insight was what she called her “Top Ten Lessons of Leadership”.  It was her second point “Be comfortable being uncomfortable” that impacted me the most and changed the way I deal with difficult circumstances.

Sometimes looking up is the only thing you can do

By nature I’m not one to embrace change or deal well with uncomfortable situations. While growing up and right into my 20’s there were definitely moments of terror and anxiety when faced with situations that took me out of my comfort zone.  For many years the fear was overwhelming especially when faced with crowds or in a situation where I was required to speak publicly.  I struggled many days with; “What if this happens”, “What if I’m not good enough” or “What will people think”.  Debbie’s speech was the pinnacle of a turning point in my life. Along with the support of a great family, wonderful friends and a lot of prayer, I reached the point of finally being able to say that I’m comfortable being uncomfortable.  Do I enjoy it? No, but I’m finding it much easier.

Well, here I am several years later sharing some of my innermost thoughts and experiences along with my artistic expression, my photography.   Why now? I’m not sure.  It might be for someone who reads this or possibly just for me.  Photography helped me escape from those “dark times”.  Getting away from pressures of life and into nature was my outlet at that moment.  Now I can look back and see that it was also teaching me that there was so much more to life than what I was dealing with.  Life became a lot bigger than just the here and now.   Photography also gave me something to get excited about and it was only for me.  If I wanted to share an image I could but if I failed no one had to know.  Prior to switching from film to digital there was also a period of anticipation waiting for the film or slide processing. That time in between allowed me to reflect on the moment I had captured and it taught me that the end result wasn’t the only goal but also what I had experienced or learned along the way.

Sometimes going with the flow is easier than fighting the tide

Do I worry about what people think? Of course; I think that it is human nature and most people do.  Artistic expression is very subjective and I feel like I still have so much to learn about photography but more than that, the questions I struggle the most with are “What is my purpose?” and “Why do I want to continue with photography?”,  “Who is my audience?” and “What is my message?”. Sometimes it is clear but quite often it is not.   Even though there are moments of insecurity with my photography there are also times of satisfaction.  On occasions it has been a satisfied client who received work that would build my confidence and other times it is self-satisfied, not in a arrogant way, but in a moment of thinking to myself I finally achieved what I envisioned before I began to create an image.  Sometimes just being there in a moment to see something amazing is also enough to make me continue.

Now as I approach middle age I realize more and more that being uncomfortable at different times in our life is normal.  I have been uncomfortable because I have done nothing and I have been uncomfortable because I have done something but in the end not really sure if I’ve done it well.   The conclusion that I’ve come to is that if I’m going to be uncomfortable it should be for doing something rather than nothing.  I’d rather fail at doing something than succeed at doing nothing.

What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? – Robert H. Schuller