“We carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us – “
When I started thinking about the onehundredstrangers project, I really was not sure what I would accomplish by photographing and writing about the strangers. As I move forward and meet more people, the purpose is becoming clear. The purpose has not been learning about the strangers, but learning more about myself in the process.
Meet Charlie. It was the 4th of July weekend and I had the opportunity to visit our local beach. We have done so many times in the past and I have found many strangers in that area. We visited the state pier on this day to photograph some “street photography.” As I walked to the end of the pier, I saw someone who could not be more opposite than me. I watched him for a few minutes and became intrigued by his sense of style. I wanted to know more about him but I passed him by.
Why did I pass him by? That is a question I have struggled with in my mind. The answer does not have much to do with Charlie as it does with me and my internal struggles. Questions that I have asked myself over several months are: Was I scared to talk to him because he was a stranger? Was his appearance off putting? Was I judging him from his appearance? Did I just not want to bother him while he was fishing? What is the truth? Was it Charlie or was it me? I was afraid of the answer, to be honest.
I passed him by…..regretting that decision!
As I started walking back to the entrance, I had to pass Charlie once again. This time I slowed my walk to a creeping pace, almost to a dead stop when I approached. I asked about his fishing for the day and made some small talk. I really do not know much about fishing but apparently he was receptive to my dumb questions. I talked to him for a while and explained about my blog. I learned from our conversation we are completely opposite. There is that old saying that opposites attract, well this could not be more true!
During this process of photographing people, I have found there is always some sort of connection to the people I find to photograph. It has been weird in a way that even 300 miles away from home, I can always find some sort of connection to where I live, people I know, family, friends, childhood, etc. Almost like there is some sort of Devine intervention.
Here is his story……
Charlie grew up in Birmingham on the Western of town. He moved to the beach 19 years ago. He has friends that visit him for usually two weeks out of a month. They fish everyday, usually for about 3 hours. His family owned a chain of grocery stores in Birmingham. He attended John Carroll High School, a private Catholic school. He did not like the grocery store business, so he was a plumber by trade. His brother ran the grocery store business. He is a husband and a grandfather. His granddaughter had just moved and he was missing her very much. He recently attended his high school reunion in Birmingham.
Here is my story….
I grew up in the Eastern part of town. I would like to move to the beach, but have not had the courage or the means. I have friends that I do not see very often. I am not much of a fisherman, even though my kids love to fish. My parents were disabled and did not work for much of my life. I attended public school in a low to moderate level income town and grew up in the projects. I graduated college with a degree in teaching; however, I hated teaching and now work in the medical field. I am a wife and a grandmother. I see my grandson multiple times during the week and miss him when I do not see him. I would never attend a high school reunion.
You see these differences I have mentioned, would be ones where I would be looked down upon in society. I have many times in my childhood and even my adult life. Charlie, may not have ever experienced that growing up. That is the lesson I must learn from meeting Charlie. Reality has a way of kicking you sometimes. Charlie is my reality…to say, my judgement reality!
Then there is the physical differences that would be considered opposite. Since I delayed writing about Charlie for so long, there were more than listed above. Either way, it just proves that even though we are completely opposite, we can still be friends. I have actually talked to Charlie via social media following our meeting. An update from Charlie is his granddaughter is back home and he is loving every minute of spending their time together. This makes me happy.
While I sit here and self-reflect on my chance meeting with Charlie, I see my internal flaws. I almost passed this wonderful chance meeting with a person who was welcoming and open about himself. Would I have ever had the chance with being so judgmental by my first impression? A teacher once told me it is that initial meeting, that first impression that people will remember. Make sure you make a good first impression. Is that true today with so many differences among people? Should I be so quick to judge someone based off tattoos and piercings? Should I stick with my very first impression instead of finding out more about a person before walking past? Dear teacher, you may have been wrong.
“Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.”
So, I left Charlie on the pier fishing. I never did find out which grocery stores his family owned, but I did wonder. The next day, I was having a conversation with my hair stylist and a customer (another stranger) at the salon. We were talking about where we liked to purchase our groceries and meat. Was it Walmart or Sam’s, Winn-Dixie, Publix, or elsewhere? I mentioned a local, small chain of stores and the lady said, Oh, the (blank) used to own those and they were great! Guess I found my answer about the grocery stores his family owned. God works in mysterious ways…..Rock on Charlie, Rock on!!!!