One of the great joys of this project is encountering amazing people across the country and spending time together. We share an intense few hours talking about the big stuff, and then we make a portrait. One of the great challenges is that often I don’t ever see them again. Maybe I feel a bigger connection, because I spend so much time editing their story, but I’m never quite sure if the impact leaves such a big an impression on them.
As I travel the country with the exhibit, I find that I want to go out of my way to revisit the people I’ve interviewed for the project. To reconnect, and catch up since our original encounter. Last month it was Eric Menzel in Iowa. Today, between the exhibit at Rutgers and a conference for Everyday Democracy in Baltimore, I drove the 87 miles to Orange, NJ, to have lunch with Hashim Garrett.
I’ll let you read or listen to his story on our blog, but I chose Hashim’s story to be the first one in our book because it is raw and honest. It deals with pain, struggle and forgiveness and it is filled with grace.
Hashim shaved the dreads he had the first time we met. I have a habit of enshrining people in the short window of our time together. So it’s always a good reminder that life moves. Our experience changes, and these stories are a document of a moment in time.
What didn’t change for Hashim was his commitment to use his own life experience to help others. What remained constant was his willingness to be open, vulnerable, and honest in an effort to make the world a better place.
One of my favorite quotes from our interview two years ago: “I want to love those who haven’t shown me love. I want to be kind to those who may not deserve my kindness.”
After our lunch today, I can see that hasn’t changed for Hashim. We can all learn from that.