There is a photograph that I love and at this moment I can't find it. This morning while I was laying in bed I was trying to imagine the number of photos I have shot over the years. Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? When I was working as a wedding photographer it wasn't unusual for me to take hundreds of photographs over the course of the wedding day, from the early light of bridal and groomish preparations to the last gasps of the usually-drunken 'We Are Family" gyrations. Those were long days and I don't miss them at all. I'm not much a fan of weddings, in general, because I think the very best part is the one often given the least air time: the marriage ceremony. People getting married agonize over candles and napkins but they rarely agonize over the words they will speak to the person to whom they are tethering their whole life.
I have a much better wedding gig these days: I get to officiate; I get to be the pastor. Not only is it the best seat in the house, but I get to act as the bridge, the conduit, through which the words flow between the two people marrying.
It's a gig you want in this life, trust me. The hours are long and the pay stinks, but being a pastor is the best job in the world.
As usual I have completely deviated from what I thought I came here to write about this morning.
That happens a lot.
I have a favorite. It's hard to believe, but I do. I have no idea why, but one picture in particular has stuck out and remained out all these years, as my favorite.
The thing is that, as photos go, it's nothing special. The lighting isn't perfect and the people aren't dressed up or anything like that. It captures a single moment that would otherwise have gone unnoticed if I hadn't been taking pictures at a lacrosse game that morning. In the photo my beautiful friend Lauren is walking away from me and my parents and she has reached out to gently touch my dad's arm. Lauren is looking one way, smiling, and Dad is turned the other way, with that look of someone who is just finishing a conversation and returning to something else. Dad is wearing, as per, a sweatshirt, and Lauren, jeans and a jacket.
It is, to this day, my very favorite photograph of all time. Go figure. And if I were better at organizing my pictures or if I had more time to dig out my external hard drive this morning, I could find it for you. I'm not and I don't, so you'll just have to imagine the image in your imagination.
I think I love that photo because it captures an otherwise improbable moment: my dad is not a touchy-feely person and Lauren knows that, but she has reached out to touch him anyway, and they are both better-off for it. In the midst of the distraction of a lacrosse game, on a chilly Vermont morning, they shared a fleeting moment of humanity and I was lucky enough to capture it with my camera.
There. I figured it out. A fleeting moment of humanity. A touch.
Last week I travelled to Nevada on the day after a madman had opened fire on a crowd of people enjoying music there together. It was pure coincidence; I was headed to Lake Tahoe to visit my son, Sam. On the day I left to return to Vermont the fires in Sonoma and Napa had gotten so bad that we were seeing and smelling the smoke at the lake, two hundred miles away.
You know this already: hurricanes, fires, volcanoes poised to erupt, flooding, humans slaughtering humans and the callous indifference of those supposedly in charge, we seem to be becoming immune to just how horrible all of this is, it's happening so fast and with such monstrous weight.
What to do? I don't know. Unfortunately us pastors don't actually have special access to extra powers or insights. We are sighing on the sidelines along with all the rest of you.
In lieu of the photograph of Lu and my dad, I offer, instead, another image of a fleeting moment. This one I captured about five years ago, when my brother's son, Dylan, whom I call Zippy, was reaching out to touch my daughter, Coco's face.
In fact, I'll offer, two, maybe three, actually. I think we need the extra boost this morning. In the next one I'm touching my son, Nate's hand, and in the last one I am reaching out to touch my friend, Lena. It was on the day I met her, for the very first time, in Sweden, after exchanging letters with her for 30 years as pen pals.
Moments of pure humanity amidst the chaos, uncertainty and sorrow of our lives in a world that seems to be melting down. We need them. We desperately, desperately need them. Amen.