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The "Aha" Moment
Feb 20, 2012
Sometimes in life we are blessed with “aha” moments. These moments become, for lack of better words, mental photographs of a specific time that changed your life. It may be a small change or it may be huge. In either case, these “moments” soon become part of who you are. Such moments have been few and far between for me. You see, like most people, I don’t like change all that much. I’m pretty content living here in South Dakota where I have family close by, a good job and good friends.
A couple years ago, I was asked by a good friend to consider helping an orphanage he was involved with to make a video presentation for their supporters. This orphanage was in Tanzania, Africa. Long story short, I went. I experienced at least two “aha” moments on that trip. One was confirming my love of travel and the wonder of creation as I reveled in the sights and sounds of Serengeti National Park. The other more important moment came when a handful of four-year-old orphans stole my heart on the shores of Lake Victoria. I wasn’t the same after that.
Fast forward to this February. I find myself in the small yard of VisionTrust Guatemala’s Learning Center in a poor, indigenous village of Guatemala when God blesses me with another “aha” moment. I’m there to assist a friend of mine learn how our church can become involved in helping the less fortunate and orphans of the world. I’m busy doing my “get the award-winning photo” thing so we can tell the story of VisionTrust to our church. As usual, I am loving every minute of the photographic experience. The kids were great subjects, full of life and happiness. Then class breaks and this little guy makes a beeline for me and proceeds to clamp onto my leg in what for him must have been a massive bear hug. That was when the “aha” moment started to happen. I kneel down and try to interact as best I can. I don’t know Spanish, but he doesn’t care. He is giggling and smiling. I pick him up like I do my nephew and hold him above my head and he laughs harder as he soars in the air.
That was the moment. This kiddo was teaching me the lesson I needed for the trip. The fact is I need him as much as he needs me. Yeah, he might be short on food and clean clothes. He probably hasn’t seen his daddy in weeks…if at all. But he’s not short on love. He’s not short on gratitude and hospitality. He may experience poverty materially but he’s showing me by example that I experience poverty relationally. This American rugged individualism that has shaped me has left something important out. The fact that I don’t “need” anyone’s help to live comfortably has made me selfish and even a bit arrogant without even realizing it. Volunteering in poor countries continues to teach me that truly helping the needy means more than just handing out food and saying a prayer. Getting to know people and loving them is what matters. It is how Jesus ministered 2,000 years ago.
I realize this column is supposed to be about photography, but I guess I wanted to point out how a hobby or passion like photography can be a means to change in your life. Going on vacations or mission trips are a great reason to take your camera and document where you’ve been and what you’ve seen. However, don’t get so caught up in “getting the photo” that you never really meet the people or learn about the culture you visit. You might miss your “aha” moment. If it wasn’t for a little Mayan boy full of excitement and love, I would have.
Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing our prettiest spots around the state. Follow Begeman on his blog.