Sometimes I’m not sure I can do this Lens of Hope thing.
As some of you know, I’ve been rediscovering my passion for writing ever since my husband left for a one year + deployment with the military. What started as a diary for my children has exploded into a blog that gets visitors in the hundreds each day, even when I don’t write anything new. I am humbled and amazed by that. “Professional” bloggers would scoff at those numbers, but I don’t. Because I don’t have a publicist or a paid google advert or any fancy blog-driving software. I don’t use SEO or newsworthy links or have paid clickable advertisements. I’m just here, writing sometimes. And you come, and you read. In fact, today we passed 14,000 hits to the blog in just four short months. Thank you.
And many of you also know that I was asked to help out with the formation of Lens of Hope, a nonprofit that provides free photography to cancer patients and their families. So here I am, and I am not a photographer. Niccole is the photographer. Niccole came up with the idea. It’s my job to be the paper-pusher, the talker, the organizer, and the writer. It’s my job to make it real, to bring Pinocchio to life. And I’ve realized something. I really am going to write these stories for these families.
Writing someone else’s story requires you to get inside their head. Being true to someone else’s emotions requires you to spend a moment living it with them. And that scares me a little. So before I started interviewing families that have been photographed for Lens of Hope, I started reading other stories to see how these people were being honored and remembered and celebrated.
Sadly, there is no shortage of cancer on the internet. It can be found in blogs, in books, in magazines, and in newspaper articles. And these stories make me weep. Even the good ones, the ones that end with the word “remission” or, better yet, “cured.” These stories have me sitting at my screen covering my face with my hands, sobbing.
And I haven’t even met with my first family, yet.
Am I really cut out for this? Will I be able to keep up with the pace? Will I be able to tolerate it, emotionally? I’ve become hardened to lots of things working in the prosecutor’s office – things that horrified me once have become dull, commonplace, or at least an observed reality. Will this happen to me again, now?
But then, I think of them. I think of my own mother and her radiation treatment this summer. I think of the hotel room where we stayed during treatment, where she shuffled from bed to chair to medicine table to bed for weeks and weeks. I think of her scar and her crooked smile where a nerve was nicked. I think of how she couldn’t eat, not at all. I think of the looks on people’s faces when they greeted her and purposely didn’t ask how she was doing. I think of how she couldn’t stand the sunshine. I think of how, when it was over, she could barely tolerate the drive home. And I think of how many others were there waiting for treatment. In just one hospital, in one city, in one month. And I think of how many others there are. And how many others there have been.
If they can do all of that, and be so brave, surely I can do this much.
As I write this post I am preparing to speak at a weekend retreat for moms of children with cancer. I have no business being there. I am intruding. I don’t understand what they are going through. I feel I can barely empathize. How can I? It seems all I have to offer is someone else’s camera lens.
But I have Hope. Please God, let me be brave enough to share it, and brave enough to tell their stories. And let me keep enough of my heart intact to be able to keep doing it. Over and over.
Alright. I can do this. I want to do this.