I recently had the pleasure of taking portraits of a number of past and present Dream Center residents. They were kind enough to tell me a little of their stories, where they had been, where they were now, and where they wanted to go. Sometimes it was hard to reconcile the somber stories with the bright, hopeful people that were sitting in front of me.
Originally I wanted to tell every detail of these people's stories - then I realized the most important story to tell was what these people had discovered and learned since coming to the Dream Center.
So instead I used just a few of their words with their photographs, to say what I thought they were telling me had happened to them after coming to the Dream Center.
Lives that had been marked with tragedy and despair have been transformed into lives of usefulness and hope. Many have regained relationships with family and children, continued their education, received college degrees, embarked on new careers. But what I got from talking to the people I photographed, was that the most important thing they have gained from coming to the Dream Center, and what brings them the most joy, is the desire and ability to give back and help others by using their own experiences.
What a concept! Helping others...... People you don't know, people you have never met before.....Seems to run contrary to everything that I personally have picked up in this life. It seems that helping others in some strange way seems to help them. What the? This is all a little hard for me to believe, I can't quite figure it out. Isn't being happy just a matter of acquiring more money, more prestige, more people telling me I'm great, more love, more me?
The people I talked to had lost much. Jobs, homes, family and friends. Years of their lives........ It seems the things we use to fill the holes in ourselves make those holes so big there's almost nothing left of us or anyone around us. So their stories of using their life and experiences to try and pick someone else up....so that person can try and pick someone else up......
Well it's downright inspiring to a selfish person such as me, myself, and I! I'm hoping some of this will rub off, so I don't have to actually help someone besides myself to get the light I see in these people's eyes! Can it work like that? I'm thinking.....probably not.
By the time I came back to the Dream Center to show everyone their pictures, one of the people that I photographed had left suddenly, throwing away everything they gained and stood to gain since they arrived at the The Dream Center. It's heartbreaking when you realize the terrible place that person came from and all that they had to lose by leaving. There seemed to be no sense to it. It's the nature of the beast I guess, for a hundred reasons it must be very hard to change the way you live your life. And it makes the stories of those who continue down their new path so much more inspiring to me.
I'm very grateful to all my subjects at the Dream Center for telling me their stories and letting me take their portraits. One of the reason's I love to work on projects like this is it does me so much good to be around people like this. People that are really trying to improve themselves and the world around them. It resets my priorities a bit, makes me realize what's really important. And it ain't necessarily me! I hope to get the chance to do something like this again soon, and I hope you guys like the pictures!