I’ve been touring the state, taking photos of health care centers for the elderly (what we used to call nursing homes). I was hired to capture both the exteriors and interiors for marketing purposes, and to take a few photos of the staff and residents for social media.
Last Thursday, I stopped at a center in western Wisconsin. When I entered the building, the hallways were empty. Most of the residents were in the activity room finishing up a late afternoon game of bingo. The group of 80-somethings were all munching on cookies and drinking juice when I showed up with my camera. All eyes were on me, wondering why I was there and what I was doing.
As I said hello and introduced myself, a small, frail woman came up to me and asked if I would take her picture.
“Of course,” I replied. “ I sat her at a table, and lined up my shot to capture her thin smile.
Then I heard a buzz start to travel throughout the room. While at first a bit shy, one-by-one, all of the residents at the bingo game asked if I would also take their photo. I moved from table to table, meeting the various residents, then capturing the sometime smiling and sometimes stoic faces of these proud people.
As I lined up my last photo and focused my camera, it struck me what was going on. Here was a group of people who understand who they are. They understand where they live and why they live there.
Their lives have changed. They are no longer able to move around with swiftness and ease. It’s difficult for them to see, and even more difficult for them to hear. They’re watching their bodies slowly betray them.
Yet…they still want the world to see them. They want to have their image captured and to be recognized. They want to matter. They want to belong.
“Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.” Psalm 71:9
For one simple moment, on one rainy Thursday afternoon, I had the privilege to capture the faces and the spirit of these wonderful men and women. And once again, they belonged.