Lesson from the Scene: Relationships Help Shape Excellence by Stanley Leary

 

by Stanley Leary

 

 
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I love to play basketball. Over the years I’ve had the rare opportunity to play with good players, but with a professional basketball player as well. However, just because I played with outstanding players didn’t make me a pro player. It did open my eyes to the potential of a player.
 
I’m not in the physical condition of my youth, but my improved understanding of the game makes me a better player than I was when I could jump above the rim.
 
Being around the best in a field will help us learn. On the flip side when we reach out to help others, more often than not, we are as blessed as they are.
 
I have photographed the homeless in downtown Atlanta and heard them pray for the wealthy people in the suburbs. They’re worried that wealth may cripple the hearts of the rich and harm their relationships with others. They’re not praying for handouts, they are praying for people’s hearts.
 
I’ve served dinner at an overnight shelter to men who are homeless yet they have jobs at places like UPS. They send their money to their families living in towns where the cost of living is much less.
 
I’m not sure if I could make some of the sacrifices these homeless are making. Just being around these people taught me a lot.
 
Some of my neighbors are from Bosnia, Croatia, Chili, Jamaica, Kenya and Mexico. One family, from Croatia, had to pack in the middle of the night, leave everything they owned and flee from danger - not just once, but twice.
 
Another neighbor, having already escaped the war and living safely in the US, returned to Bosnia to help his family and friends in the war raging in his home country. Now, back in the US, he spends his time in a wheelchair with a bullet in his back from that war. Last year his wife suffered a heart attack and died.
 
Just living around these immigrant neighbors teaches me so much about sacrifice. Their determination to make a better life for their children is astounding.
 
As a photojournalist the opportunity to meet so many people and hear their stories. It has given me a better perspective in life.
 
Another way I have been able to expand my relationships is through education. Formal education in the classroom forced me to learn about subjects I would have never encountered had the classes not been required. What I gained from my education experience is the desire to learn.
 
Reading biographies helps me to discover how a person was changed through time and experiences.
 
The Internet helps me connect with many people and reconnect with friends from the past. Our oldest son went off to college this year. Through the Internet and cell phone was able to remain connected to many of his high school buddies.
 

I’m learning that in order to improve my game I need to reach up to those who are further along than me, out to those alongside me and down to those who may need my help. I’ve also learned that when I reach down I’m often really reaching up. Reach out and get connected—it can change your life.