I've always encouraged friends to learn how to draw or photograph; drawing or looking through a viewfinder forces one to "see"; the mundane falls away and one can perceive shapes, compositions, colors that are always there but remain hidden if the senses aren't engaged creatively.
But it wasn't until I became a photojournalist for the newspapers that I learned the power of empathy in regards to creation. Being a staff photographer I had to come back from every assignment, (sometimes three or four a day), with something useable. Photos and videos that could absolutely be featured on the front page or on top of the website. This, (and the fact that stories were always human-focused, different from my time as an architectural photographer), forced me to develop an empathy I didn't know I had.
Franciscan friar Richard Rohr wrote in his book the Divine Dance "When you see things contemplatively everything is a mirror." This is what photojournalism did for me, forced me to see the other as if looking in a mirror. A typical day might find myself photographing workers in a chile field at 5am, then a man in a courtroom arraigned for murder in the afternoon and finally the governor of the state giving a press conference in the evening. By the end of my time with the papers I was looking at people as if I saw my own reflection. This is what has led to in large part what I alluded to in yesterday's post - the desire to the leave the world in a "better" place.
What is that place?
Simply a world where we see others as ourselves. The idea being of course that if we do that then we afford others, we give to others, we love others as we would ourself.
I saw a wonderful example of this today doing a segment for the local ABC affiliate; a woman, Debbra Arndt, dedicates her life to growing vegetables for the destitute elderly in her community of O'Fallon, Missouri. I visited Debbra expecting that that was her passion, the growing of vegetables; but surprise, surprise she also paints, and is a photographer; she sees...and is making things better.