Earlier this week, I was sitting in the library thinking about my own girls and watching some of the neighborhood kids study by themselves and with each other.
As the afternoon wore on, I decided to pull out my camera because I was intrigued by a young girl with braids. You may say, so what, she had braids. Well, those of you who know me, really know me, that I really study people and will hone in on one or two things that make that person stand out. Well, with this young lady, she had purple hair woven throughout her braids. And I thought about my own 13-year-old daughter, who probably would have done the same thing, as she loves and adores anything purple.
As I aimed my camera at her, I took a few shots, without her noticing.
Finally, I aimed again, and she looked directly at me. I looked back.
I wasn’t sure what she was going to say or do, so I smiled.
She smiled back. She had a toothy smile, kind of awkward, typical of a young girl not quite sure of her own power, not comfortable in her own skin, not fully aware of her own self-image.
I was glad, however, to see that there was still some innocence there. It warmed my heart because I know that sometimes little girl innocence can sometimes be taken away quicker than a New York minute, by no fault of their own.
I found out later she was 12 years old. I didn’t find out her name, though. She told me that she had to work on a project and that she needed to concentrate on what she was doing.
I got up and walked over to her, and offered to show her the image. As she looked at the live view screen, two other girls at the table jumped out of their seats and asked if I could take their pictures. They clamored and bounced around and spoke with such urgency that it was clear to the library staff that we were disturbing the other patrons.
Well, to be honest with you, I really wanted to take pictures of some of the kids in the neighborhood, but as many people know, you have to be really careful because people are really sensitive about their kids. I don’t blame parents for being over-protective.
I asked them to come back to my table. I took some shots, including this picture of a 9-year-old girl who clearly has artistic talent.
She let me see her drawings in her spiral-bound notebook. She talked about how she loves to draw and how she can’t wait to be 10 in January. She asked if she could see my camera and take some pictures.
I told her yes. I showed her how to hold the camera, and noticed that her little fingers were struggling to reach around the base like I can do so easily with my grown woman fingers. I was nervous, but you know what, I said, eff it.
I said yes, because I didn’t know how many times this little girl has heard no in her life.
No, not now. No, we can’t. No, we don’t.
No is a painful word, especially if it isn’t balanced with a few strategically placed yeses from time to time.
She zoomed in, like a pro and pressed the shutter button.
She shot this picture of her 10-year-old friend. When I looked at it in the live view screen, I said, you have so much talent. Wow.
After the mini-photo shoot, they sat at my table, chatting and laughing and attempting to finish their homework. They talked about their mothers, their dreams and aspirations, what they had in common, their likes and dislikes, and all the things that little girls talk about before boys enter the picture, sometimes shattering it.
It still manages to amaze me that faces like theirs can provoke so many feelings across the spectrum both inside our community and in the mainstream. Feelings of hate, misunderstanding, loathing, disdain, and dismissal, like these little girls aren’t worth our effort.
Some may disagree and say that kids in our neighborhoods are not our problem and that their parents should do their jobs. As a parent, I don’t disagree with this notion.
However, I say this: if you have a talent and you come across a young person who can benefit from you sharing your gift (yes, your gifts. A higher power saw fit to bestow you with your gifts and talents and that same power can see fit to take them away if you’re not careful), what will it hurt to reach out and take a moment to connect with a child?
I’m not saying that you have to be that child’s parent. But damn, I can point to several people in my life who took a moment to give a damn about me. They weren’t my parents. But they cared anyway. I shudder to think about how my life would have turned out if they didn’t give a damn about me.
Sometimes it can just be an encouraging word, a smile, a conversation that might make the difference in a child’s life.
I may never see these girls again. But I promised them that I would put their pictures up on my blog. And I try to keep my promises.
Who knows how many promises weren’t kept in these girls’ lives?
I don’t. But I will damn sure keep mine.
- How to keep girls from growing up too fast (commercialappeal.com)