I love to people watch. Especially at airports. I was sitting at my terminal in Charlotte NC and I am watching people walking around. I almost feel like Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense”. My eyes have been opened and now when I look at people I see things I never saw before.

I spend my time as a photographer telling other people’s story, but today, I will tell you mine. I will tell you how Haiti and changed what I see. I have had close friends who have been to Haiti, so I had a pretty solid idea of what to expect from Haiti. What no one prepared me for, was the people of Haiti and that by the end of my trip a young girl would be wiping MY tears away.

This is Estaline, she was brought to Child Hope by her brother after their mother died of an asthma attack. Photo Credit www.tamara-lockwood.com/

I kissed my wife goodbye and then I kissed -22 degrees Fahrenheit goodbye and left to go change children’s lives. I say that with a cavalier attitude because that is pretty close to what my attitude was as I left. I knew I was going to make a difference, I knew I was going to tell the story of these children and I knew I would impact their lives. I had done my homework, I actually read every page of Josh’s packet and when I walked into the hotel at Miami and met the 21 other insanely talented people in our team, it was go time.

I did not realize what the people of Haiti were doing to me at first. A rock does not realize it is being polished by the river. It is a slow and gradual result that can only be acknowledged after significant change has taken place. Now, sitting in the confines of my office, cat sleeping in my lap and a drink with ice cubes by my side, I can tell you the river started pounding my rock of a heart with the first person I met in Haiti. Katherine. I was not prepared find, let alone to be humbled by, a 24 year old girl from Northern Idaho in Haiti. That should have been my first clue that I was in way over my head.

The first evening we were in Haiti we went to the area called the “Bens” and hang with the kids. I packed my camera bag and as we walked the rocky, dusty roads to the Bens, I prepared myself to see broken orphans and children without hope. I wanted to give them love but I also felt that as a photographer, I needed to bring their story home with photographs. We entered through the gate after the armed guard let us in and before I saw the children, I heard their laughing. Yes, laughing. It threw me off. I am walking into an orphanage in Haiti, a country ravaged by earthquakes and hurricanes and poverty and yet, the children are still laughing. I rounded the corner and saw a concrete soccer field and I made the choice then. I took my camera bag off, jumped into the field and never touched my camera the entire night. My 35 year old knees pounded the pavement and I spent the night speaking a language that every kid understood, soccer.

The road we walked many times, we took this road to the boys home, the girls home and the Bens.

The soccer field at the “Bens”.

As the days flipped by the story was same. I prepared myself to find despair and I found despair but also contained in that despair were smiles, hope and grace. Yes, there is extreme poverty that no American who has not traveled abroad, can understand. Yes, there are massive “tent cities” that when driving on the highway, I could smell them before I saw them. Yes, there are orphans who were sent to the street by their parents to INCREASE their chances of living. You can always find pockets of darkness in humanity.

Four years after the 2010 earthquake, many homes still show the damage.

This was one of the “tent cities” in Haiti that the city removed. With no where to really go, a few months later and they tents are starting to reappear.

What just carved at my heart while there was the belief of these children and teens that their time is coming. They will tell you a heart wrenching story of upbringing and you will see that moment of despair grab their soul but before it takes hold, their eyes light up and they will tell you what they have accomplished so far. How a donated silk screen machine that made its way from San Francisco and is now tucked in room barely bigger than the machine itself has turned into a viable business. How they are going to use their skillset to change their lives, to change other orphans lives, to change Haiti itself. Here in American if we wait in line more than 10 minutes for Starbucks, our day is ruined.

From San Francisco to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, this silk screen machine found its way to the small room and is now shaping the lives of two boys.

Jane, Darryl and Jeremy digging into the “Why” and “How” to make something as simple as T-Shirts an entity that can create hope for not just the two boys here but so many more.

Child after child, person after person, story after story… I was shown a resilience that cannot be quantified or captured in a photograph. I met Israel, one of the original 8 boys that Bill and Susette rescued from the darkest place you could imagine. He is now a web designer and I dare you to hear his story and not feel you can overcome anything. I met Jonathan, a little boy who was picked off the streets by the police because he was running on all fours and biting people on the streets, only then to run on all fours and bite people at the police station. He was taken from the police station and brought to the orphanage and while he does have some physical limitations, accepting and sending back my love is not one of them.

That is Israel in the bottom right. He is one the original 8 boys Bill and Susette plucked the clutches of true evil.

Jonathan and Caitlin, this is the first time any one from our team got to hold him.

This was my time here in Haiti, a river shaping a rock. The slow but unmistakable process of shaping a person’s life.

Two street children with not much to call their own, yet they completely own their happiness.

Some of my soccer buddies, they are so full of life.

All orphans. Yet all smiles.

The evening of our last full day with children was a praise and worship night. All the music and vocals are done by children within the orphanage and this photo is one of my favorite, of the entire trip. This was also one of my last photographs as well. Shortly after I took this photograph I put my camera down for the night and joined in on the worship. After less than a song I felt the gentle yet powerful tug on my soul and began to pray, specifically for guidance with where I am at in life and career. The tug soon became a forceful push, so I prayed deeper and asked for discernment and wisdom. The forceful push soon became an unrelenting tide on my spirit. I remember specifically and saying to God in a very frustrated tone, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?!?!”. At that very moment, I feel two little hands tap my leg. I look down and see little Estaline at my feet, holding her hands up to me, just wanting to be picked up. I bent over and picked her up and at that moment I was given the answer to my prayer with a simple yet profound “Love who is in front of you.”.

Such a powerful night


As I held Estaline and processed the week’s events, the relationships, the children, the strength, I completely lost it with tears flowing down my cheeks. In less than a song’s time, Estaline had fallen asleep and was breathing deep. In all of our hustle and greed, all of our wants and needs, I am holding a girl who has already lost her mother and all she needs to be content is to be picked up. My how we complicate our happiness compared to these children. After a few minutes Estaline woke back up, looked me in the eyes and paused. I could tell by her face that she knew I had been crying. Without a word she took her little hands and began to wipe my tears away. A 35 year old man, a husband, a father, a successful business owner is having HIS tears wiped away by a motherless orphan from Haiti.

“Love who is in front of you.”

There I am in the airport at Charlotte NC, the airport with the rocking chairs. I am sitting in the corner of my terminal and watching people go about their lives. The simple question keeps reverberating through my thoughts… “How many of these people could change lives if they just loved the person in front of them?”. Better yet, how many lives could you change?


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