Sunday, April 23, 2006

As each new opportunity presents itself for me to share the story of the work of Soulumination, I find that I learn more than I share. In Cleveland I was driven to various locations by a most amazing and energetic 80 year old. Ralph volunteers to deliver for Meals on Wheels, he is a hospice volunteer that works with patients when their main care givers need a break and he has given over 80 pints of blood to his local blood bank. He drives a Prius, dreams of winning a lottery and building a totally 'green' home and has worked out how to donate his body to medical research when he dies. His personality and his joy in giving is truly inspiring. The tour of the hospice house run by Hospice of the Western Reserve was enlightening in many ways and was a great example of a group learning to watch the responses of their patients and improving and growing with that knowledge. It was so delightful to meet Celeste who had worked so hard to make sure my trip went well. Sharing time before my flight home to Seattle with her at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was special as we both were enamored with the fashion displays. The family of Katie Dolesh who sponsors the lecture series are obviously leaders in compassion in the Cleveland community. I will forever be thrilled that I spoke at their 10th anniversary evening.

When I returned home there was much to catch up on as there were numerous amazing emails. One from a new family, one from one of my brides who shared the fact that her dad is working with the Hole in the Wall Gang cancer camps and proposing I spend time with the kids once it opens, one from my contact Leslie setting up a time in May for a new child and her family, many from possible candidates for our adminstrative position, one from my friend Scott of the Palliative care unit at Children's asking about using the Soul photos in their new office and one from a midwest photographer who is overjoyed with the fact that she worked with her first family to start her efforts that are partly inspired by Soulumination. She has even had a second request and was asking for help in how to proceed effectively.

This mentoring part of Soulumination has been on my mind a lot lately. Its amazing to think of how many people have started doing similar work. I have the media to thank for this as its often that the photographers mention that they either read about the project in People or saw the piece on the Today show. It continues to trouble me that I see from a distance and even first hand that some people are not welcomming to new talent in this area, or they are condescending about the talent and approach of others in this field. When speaking and mentoring, either to groups or to individuals I try to keep reminding people that we are here to serve the families to offer something from our hearts and not for ourselves. To keep the mission purely to serving a need is my main goal, without other agendas or personal issues attached. Its not about how many we can serve but how well we serve, its not about one approach to photography being better than another and its not about enhancing the looks of the children that are so clearly already beautiful unless we are specifically asked to do so by a parent. I feel it is up to each of us to record the joy of a life, the uniqueness of each child and to do it in a way that honors the wishes of each family. After much reflection I realize that doing compassionate work indeed is something that must be a gift with no strings attached. I promise to strive to encourage others to step forward to do similar work and have made the first steps to incorporating other local photographers into the work of Soulumination. I daydream that in the future I will have mentored to the point that I will rarely receive requests for shoots because I have been deligent in replacing myself with many others who are moved to the work. I know I will never be totally away from this project in my lifetime but it will make me so happy if the opportunity for such photos is so readily available that the work is spread out amongst the talent in Northwest and across the country.

I will soon post photos of the trip to Cleveland. The Hospice of the Western Reserve has kindly offered to share some with me. I am most pleased to say that while I was away we completed the editing and preparation for delivery of photos and albums to 4 families. In love and peace, Lynette