Last weekend I was asked to drive (one of the multiple jobs I have right now) a group of Saint Martin’s University students down to Portland for their overnight service immersion trip. I’ll start by saying I think it’s pretty cool that these students took time out of their already busy schedules to go learn about how some with much less live day to day.
They started Friday night at Saint Andre Bessette Catholic Church. As always I brought my camera along in the hopes of capturing some interesting images of the world. I was quickly informed that while it might be a possibility in the future if we were to ask way beforehand, a camera in the church that night was a no go. Security was tight, with a videocamera on the front door (small black dome in the photo, right middle) and a call button to get in. All that coupled with my back nearly going out set me away for the night... I figured I'd get a good night's sleep and do a photowalk of Portland the next day. Wasn't planning on seeing these students till our departure time Saturday afternoon.
Saturday started just like I assumed it would. I parked the school van across the street from the church and moseyed down to Chinatown. First task; get some cool shots of the neighborhood with Dim Sum being a close second priority. Everything was going as planned. I walked up and down a few blocks clicking away at buildings, sculptures and whatever caught my eye. I even found the restaurant I wanted to eat at but decided to continue on; there was a cool bridge up ahead that was begging to get its photo taken.
Then it happened... across the street... over half of the students were gathering. My photo trip had collided with there service trip. I have known a few of these students for a while and figured I'd stop to say "Hi," it's the nice thing to do and I really like them.
Once the entire group was gathered their leader for the trip, Susan, wasted no time asking me to take photos of them for the afternoon. I didn't hesitate, "Sure!" is what I hope and believe I said enthusiastically but it very well may have been "Ummm... Sure!" My memory isn't great on that. What my memory is solid on is why I said yes.
If you put together all the hours I've been in communication with Susan it wouldn't fill an entire business day at this point... I hardly know her at all. But in that amount of time one thing has become obvious to me, she's inspiring. With an overwhelming amount of love and compassion, the care she shows radiates like rays of sunlight through the stained glass windows of a church. When a person like that asks you to do something good for the world for a measly two hours on a Saturday, how I was raised, you say yes.
After walking a few blocks and getting educated on local services in the area that we were walking by we ended up at a local publication, Street Roots. We had a rep come outside and let us know about the paper, their attempts to educate the public and make Portland streets as safe as possible through knowledge. As a writer this was probably my favorite part and as a photographer I admittedly took WAY too many photos.
From there is was on to our last stop, Right 2 Dream Too, a "nonprofit organization operating a space that provides refuge and a safe space to rest or sleep undisturbed for Portland’s unhoused community who cannot access affordable housing or shelter."
At first I held back, not wanting to intrude. Between my camera (for the geeks out there, I had my 24-70mm 2.8 going most of the time and supplemented with a 14mm fisheye) and camera bag I wasn't able to conceal much. But I was let in with the instruction to please avoid photos of people unless it was the students or staff. Even the staff shots I decided to ask permission for though. The students were shown around the space including but not limited to multiple tent structures, a prayer area and computer services. It was pretty impressive to say the least and they were great to the students.
What I loved were the boards surrounding the space. For a $100 donation you can get a board to decorate and they stay (relatively) safe from graffiti. The group discussed the idea of purchasing one. I was proud to see fans of my wife's alma mater had already purchased one. GO OSU BEAVERS!
It was a good trip. The drive back was quick and safe. On to the next adventure!