As a young boy, I loved everything about baseball. Well, almost everything. I wanted to be part of the team, build friendships, and enjoy the thrill of victory. Being somewhat of a nerd, I never found my rhythm in the sport. Yet despite my failings at being a good player, baseball would point me toward of one of my true callings.
I spent more time in the dugout than on the field, but despite that, I was committed and showed up always trying to improve. But it was also fear that drove me back again and again, the fear of not being accepted by my peers, despite the often less than kind teasing that lesser players receive.
There were times that i questioned my decision. Like the day I was “catching up” behind the pitcher during practice. The batter hit a hard line drive and the pitcher jumped to avoid being hit just as I turned to hand him a ball. The missile arrived just below my belt line. Writhing in pain, and wishing I had remembered my cup, my fellow teammates drug me through the dirt to the dugout by my feet, laughing the whole way. Perhaps this wasn’t for me.
Still, the following year at the start of 8th grade, I tried out for the school team, where I assumed everyone would get to play. No more Little League dad-coaches playing favorites to their sons; I would finally get a fair shake.After all, this was a public school. Were they not there to teach everyone? I went to tryouts, confident of becoming a member of the Bluff City Junior High School baseball team, the Grizzlies. At the end, the coach announced he would post the results on the bulletin board the next day.
I found no joy looking at that list. The coach said, “Sorry, but you didn’t make the cut. If you don’t already have an alternate activity, then the Yearbook Club is right down the hall.” Seriously? Didn’t make the cut? The Yearbook Club? What a nightmare! I wasn’t doing well in English class. I was introverted and shy. Clearly I wasn’t cut out for the Yearbook Club. My heart sank.
I went to the room and explained what had happened. The girls in the room—there were no other boys—giggled at my misfortune. Then the teacher asked how my grades were in English, and I said, “Not good at all.” The girls laughed all the more. Embarrassed and somewhat depressed, I stood in silence. I will never forget what that teacher did next.
She walked to a cabinet, reached in and handed me a Rolleiflex camera. “You are now the school photographer,” she said. I confessed, “I don’t know anything about photography. “It doesn’t matter, you can learn.” she said. My fear of failure turned instantly to respect. This teacher cared about everyone. My spirit was renewed. I now had something of value to offer my new club.
She told me I could go anywhere on campus and take pictures. My previous despair melted away, and I was off to the races, inspired to come to school early and stay late. Finally, I found an activity that made me feel successful and accepted. That single moment changed my life. A simple act of kindness and genuine compassion put me on course to a lifetime of joy taking pictures.
Sometimes failure leads to success. Successful people will tell you that for every win, they have countless failures. The key to winning is more than just not giving up; it’s also about finding a way to change fear into respect.
I now photograph for Cityview because I enjoy the creative process, and making our city and the people that live here look awesome makes me proud and gives me joy. But by far, the most fun thing to share is my knowledge because seeing the light come on in someone’s eyes reminds me of that moment when someone cared enough to point me in the right direction.