I take photographs. I set in front of the computer arranging tiny black and white pixels into words that are sent out around the globe to be magically re-arranged on someone’s screen in London, Kansas City, Taipei, Sydney or somewhere else.
I’ve looked in the eyes of a homeless woman in Buenos Aires. My gaze went through her iris, down the optic nerve and rested in her soul. Just for a second. A split second our lives and travels crossed.
I’ve stared down the working end of a loaded AK47 in Arizona while a vigilante challenged me for identification.
I marched with the protesters as they battled Mountaintop Removal in West Virginia and I’ve plucked starfish from the foamy surf under the Santa Monica pier.
And I’ve wondered if I’ve made a difference.
15K daily readers of my blog. 5K friends on Facebook and 500K images on my website. I wonder if any of them have touched a nerve. Made someone laugh. Made someone cry. Maybe angered someone to the point that they will get off their La-Z-Boy and work to make a difference in their life.
I get emails. People who say they live through my work. People who travel through my images. People have joined me in protests, watched sunsets and explored battlefields with me through my words. Six hundred, seven hundred — I’ve lost count — emails a month from people that join me on this journey called life.
I’m not afraid of anything. Well, not quite true.
I’ve stared down policia in Buenos Aires, been picked up by the Secret Service in Washington, spent days with the drug cartels in Sonorra when all I could see were their dark chestnut eyes staring at me through narrow slits in their masks.
But a tiny, petite blond in Argentina can bring me to my knees in fear with one look, one nod and one word. When she starts erupting in Spanish, I know I’m in trouble and I tremble.
When I’m ready to take my last breath and look back on this adventure, I will be satisfied if there is just one image of the thousands that people can point to and say “that made a difference”.
I don’t know which image it will be. Maybe I haven’t even taken it yet. Maybe I already have and it’s waiting to be “discovered”.
I will have made a difference if, a hundred years from now, someone can point to an image of mine and says, “That made a difference”.
The naked little girl fleeing from napalm in Vietnam. The mother with hungry children in the dust bowl of Oklahoma. The woman wailing over the body of her fallen friend at Kent State. All of these images made a difference; I want one of mine to join them.
3 ways for you to make a difference
1. Do something for the poor people in your community. If you live in the states, don’t reach out for those in India and ignore those in your hometown. It’s safe to love someone at a distance. It’s easy to write a check for Bangladesh. There is no sacrifice in putting a stamp on a check, or pressing a button on a computer to send dollars to far off lands. Without sacrifice there is no compassion. Without compassion there is no difference to be made.
Take a sandwich to someone in the park. Toss a few dollars into the cup of the panhandler. So what if they buy beer with it. It’s not up to you to judge what someone does with what you give, it’s your responsibility to give, so do it now and start at home.
2. Do something for animals. And I don’t mean cutesy little pictures of cats online. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Tell Mary West in Asheville, NC that you don’t give a damn what she thinks, you’re going to feed the pigeons in Pritchard Park. Learn to groom a horse. Donate to an animal habitat. Go “hunting” with your camera. Adopt a pet — and then spend time with it.
3. Do something for the environment. Get off your fat ass and walk to work. Carpool. Ride a bicycle. Grow your own food and tell factory farming to take-a-hike. Turn the a/c off, open the windows and smell the outdoors instead of the musty filter that you never got around to cleaning. Buy a reusable grocery bag and let WalMart do away with all those plastic ones.
Recycle, reuse and return. Don’t buy new when used will do just fine. Consciously reduce your carbon footprint to the size of a dime and turn off the TV and read a book instead.
What can YOU do?
What is something that you will commit to today to make a difference? Leave a comment and let people know.
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Have a story tip or idea? I’m always on the lookout for unique people, places and things. Everyone has a story to tell. Not everyone can tell their story. When you have a unique story and you’re ready to share it with the world, please keep me in mind. You can see some of the media outlets my work has been featured in by clicking here. Ready to have your story told? Email me today!
Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist from America. His latest book of photography, Suenitos tells the story of the only daycare inside the dangerous Hidden City. Now based in Argentina, he continues to turn his lens on social justice issues around the globe. Connect with Jerry on MosaicHub, Facebook or LinkedIn today. Have a story that needs to reach national media? Email him today.
In addition to being photo editor for the Internet’s largest collection of Travel Articles, Outbounding, he is also the lead photographer for BuenosTours, the specialists in private walking tours of Buenos Aires
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