The man with the red guitar

I’ve debated whether to write this story or not, simply because I don’t want people to get me wrong. It’s one of my struggles in life to be misunderstood. It’s why more often than not I stay silent. It’s probably for that exact reason that I prefer taking pictures and let them speak for me.

But here goes…

It’s a Wednesday night as I walk into the metro station with my girls. A friendly looking man with a red guitar passes the ticket gates at the same time as us. I love music and have a great appreciation for everyone making music instead of leaving that dream in a sealed box like I have; I smile at him and move on.

We walk onto the platform to wait for the metro. The man stops and stands right next to us. I figure he noticed my smile and wants to talk for a bit, after all Paris can be quite lonely at times. What happens next is not what I expected.

In the blink of an eye I see him lift his guitar in an attempt to slap me with it. He starts ranting: “Vous les blancs!” (You white people!). My initial reaction is shock. Wasn’t I just being nice to him? How is it that I deserve this kind of treatment? At the same time, I realize it’s not me, I have never seen this man before. His anger came before me and I just sparked it in that moment. My fear leaves my body. I’m trying to hear what he’s saying. I want to listen to his story, because I’ve learned over time that one of the most important things in life is being heard.

While trying to make conversation he lifts his guitar again. As he tries to hit me a second time I feel a hand on my arm and hear one of my girls say that her sister is crying from fear of me getting hurt. I had completely forgotten about my girls being there with me and as much as I want to hear this man’s story, the priority I have is with my kids. I move back into mom mode. I look at the man and tell him: “Stop! I hear your anger, but it’s unacceptable to scare my kids. They are too young; they don’t need this fear.”

It’s with those words that he snaps out of it. He too becomes calm, looks at me and my kids and apologizes profusely. We shake hands and get on different parts of the metro.

A couple of days later I see him again; asleep at the feet of Edith Piaf.

“Entre tes bras, dans le calme des nuits,
J’ai tant besoin d’oublier tout ce bruit !
Délivre-moi de l’enfer de cette vie…
Fais-moi mon coin de paradis…” ~ Edith Piaf

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Follow your (he)art!

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The picture looks to be about two friends chatting on what looks like just an every day metro ride in Paris. To be honest, I made it look that way simply because the man sitting next to them intrigued me…

So much so that when I saw him getting his camera out I walked up to him. I wanted to hear his story, I wanted to know what pulled me towards him, and the only way to make that happen was by listening to what he wanted to share with a stranger.

Much to my surprise the conversation went from 0 to a 100 in minutes.

He told me about following his heart, about being true to himself in his photography career, even though that made him lose out sometimes. But nothing was more important to him than being true to himself.

Boom!

I no longer had to wonder what that pull was that I had felt.  I simply needed to hear this man’s story, because following my heart, being true to myself and being afraid of losing out (not just money) are all things I have been struggling with over the years.

He was there to hold up the mirror of my life!

“Look for the helpers”

I’ve just finished reading an article about vicarious trauma by Annie Wright and am actually still feeling this all through as I write…

Vicarious trauma and the subsequent grief for the state of the world we live in; it’s definitely something I’m very sensitive too. It’s for that reason that I keep following news outlets to a minimum and will hide posts in my Facebook feed.

But even when I do that, I can’t really get away from reality, nor should I.

Yesterday my girls and I went to the yearly event Paris Plage. An afternoon out and about on a makeshift beach in the center of town. Unfortunately the state of the world is such that the entrance is guarded and soldiers are on patrol, as you can maybe make out in the picture.

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The soldiers being there doesn’t really give me a sense of security. To me they are more a reminder of what may happen any time we go out anywhere in the world these days.

Of course I can let that get to me and live in fear, or I can go with the words of Mr Rogers – “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

As much as that may sound like I’m keeping myself naive, I’m mostly keeping myself open to meeting good people, the helpers.

After visiting Paris Plage we hopped on the metro back home and met Fran. Fran is most definitely a helper. He sang his heart out, kept cracking jokes at people, reaching out to touch hearts.

DSCF8960AI have a lot of respect for people like Fran and I wanted him to know. Now really, I’m not someone to just walk up to a stranger and say: “I have so much respect for you”, but I did. What followed was a most awesome discussion…

Thanks Fran, you may have just convinced me to do that more often, after all you can’t go wrong with being a helper!

The timing of things

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Looking at this picture I can still feel the doubt I felt that day.

A week earlier I had been on a photo-walk with a group of people I had never met before. At the end of the walk we sat down and talked about our photography, our reasons to take pictures, our projects…

Walking down the rue de Thorigny I was reminded of the woman mentioning that she had done a photo-walk where the goal was to actually go up to a person and ask if you could take their picture rather than to snap it unnoticed. I felt that I could never do that!

So what was I to do now that I stumbled on this shop with the light on in the back where this man was working and I just loved what I saw?

I stood there for a moment and did nothing and as I moved on I wondered what all of that was telling about me; what was I afraid of?

I chose to go back. Not just back. I went around the block to muster up all the courage I needed to take the picture I had in my mind. When I stood in front of the shop I took the picture, not entirely unnoticed, then I left…

I decided to deal with the ask part some other time not knowing that the whole process of doubting myself and going around the block would make for the perfect timing of “some other time”.

Crossing the street near the canal Saint Martin I met Alain. We got to talking over a can of paint he had almost tripped over and that I had avoided only because I saw him trip.

I should have taken a picture right on the spot, to show you how roads end up black… It’s really not how you think!

After the initial joking around he noticed my camera, concluding that I was either a tourist or a photographer. My accent threw him for a loop. I threw him for a question: “Can I take you picture, sir?”

DSCF6056BTurns out Alain had always dreamed of getting his picture taken… and we just met at the perfect spot for that.

Sometimes timing IS everything!

 

Taking turns

DSCF5839A I was walking with a friend when we caught up to these two ladies walking home from the weekly market.

I told my friend to slow down for a moment. He told me I’m sure you see a picture right there…

I saw sisters or old friends.

Their similarity in clothes reminded me of the days that my cousin and I would call before going out to decide what we would wear. Gosh, how I miss those days sometimes…

That however was just the quick first glance. What I also saw was that the lady to the left had trouble walking. She would pause regularly. The lady to the right would wait for her to steady herself, grab on to her arm again and slowly continue their way.

It was such a loving sight…

Don’t you think that that’s what a strong relationship is about? Taking turns being strong for each other in times when the other feels weak…

Love is patient!