This week iTunes had a special price of .99 cents on some of their documentaries for rent. There were many that I would have liked to watch (especially for only .99 cents!) but I knew I would not have the time to do so. However, I did settle on one about a street photographer by the name of Vivian Maier. (Warning: Two bleeped out expletives in trailer. None in documentary.) No one knew anything about her until John Maloof, an insightful young man with a keen eye for genius, bought a trunk load of her belongings at an estate auction in Chicago. He discovered a large amount of negatives, and roll after roll of undeveloped film. In fact, all in all, Vivian had archived and tucked away over a 100,000 photographs. As a result of this discovery in 2007, her work has been shown in galleries all over the world and she is now regarded as being among the 20th century’s greatest photographers.
The Times Colonist called the documentary, “Riveting. A Fascinating portrait. As captivating as it is haunting.” I agree. Along with an incredible eye for taking poignant pictures of everyday life in the streets, Vivian, who barely eked out a living as a nanny and cleaner, also kept her life intensely private. Her reclusive and mysterious ways almost resulted in her exceptional photographic work never coming to light. Some of the families that she worked for who were interviewed in the documentary, lamented that they never really took the time to get to know her. Although she had worked for years for some of them, they were shocked and surprised to learn about her incredible talent.
Vivian never allowed anyone to get close to her. Perhaps she didn’t know how, or was mentally unable to do so. Whatever the reason, due to her self-imposed exile from society, her later years were lived in abject poverty and isolation. Others who lived in the same slum area of the city, did not know anything about her amazing artistry. They only knew her as the lady who sat on a park bench for hours by herself. One day after a fall, she pleaded with the paramedics not to take her to the hospital. Sadly it was there, without any family or friends, that she died virtually unknown.
As members of Christ’s body, Jesus wants us to resist the tendency toward individualism and superficial acquaintances. He wants us to move out of any self-imposed exile, isolation, and familiar cliques. We were made in the image of a relational God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are created, therefore, to live and thrive in relationships as well - especially in the church. God’s best blessings are relationships.
Prayerfully consider not waiting to be approached by others, but with God’s help, take the initiative to greet someone who might look a bit lost, or inquire beyond the perpetual smile of those who always seem to be fine, just in case they’re not. Ask them how their week has gone. Then respectfully look them in the eye (the interface of the soul), and just listen, really listen. Patiently nod through trite comments about the weather, and the gloomy, anhedonic, Eeyore outlooks of some, and ask them what brought them joy this week, or what are they most looking forward to. As you sincerely do so, you will be blessed and enriched to discover in others a treasure trove of gifts and talents, common interests, new perspectives, insightful wisdom, and empathetic experiences. Loneliness, and perfunctory interactions dissipate, and symbiotic, mutual joy, hope, and strength in the body of Christ flourish.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Thanks for meandering along with me.