Yesterday at the safe haven for men with multiple disabilities where I intern, I was given the task of taking a picture of each gentleman that lives there. We needed updated pictures for their files, so I set about to photograph each and every one of them. I was excited about this task; I thought it would be a fun way to engage each gentleman.
Of course, some of the residents were less than thrilled about having their pictures taken. A few of them cursed at me, others flat-out refused, and a few got extremely anxious and worked up. I reassured them and coaxed them, and nearly all agreed to it in the end.
And it was fun! I tried to capture the residents as they are; the grumpy ones looked grumpy. The confused ones looked confused. And the happy ones had great big grins. Seeing the pictures as they came off the printer was incredibly heartwarming; to see their smiles, their smirks, their faces captured just as they are. My eyes welled up.
More than seeing the pictures though, the few minutes I got to spend with each resident, connecting and sharing, was even more important to me. All I could think about was how three months ago, I didn’t know any of these men’s names. I didn’t know their stories, their daily struggles, their victories. I didn’t know their special quirks, what made them smile, or what made them sad. And now I do. These 40 men are my friends. I care about them, and they care about me.
I’m starting to feel really sad about leaving. Even though some days I walk away feeling frustrated and exhausted, I love that place. I feel more at home there than I do in my apartment. The men make me smile every single day. As excited as I am to go home, I know that I will carry them in my heart for years to come.
Yesterday as I was leaving, one of the residents gave me a lucky penny he had found on the sidewalk. I got so warm and tingly inside. He told me to carry it with me and something good would happen.
But he was wrong, something good already has happened.