i thought that i could change you. but you changed me.

it's always disappointing when things don't turn out the way we imagined them isn't it? i mean, it doesn't turn out bad. just different.  we preconceive a situation and it just doesn't play out the way it would in our heads. automatically we are displeased. our hopes are defeated and our pride is hurt. then we spend an insane amount of time measuring the reality against the expectation. we dwell on it until we have convinced ourselves that the actual situation we have been given is lacking. that we were ripped off. 

i went to los angeles telling myself "i'm going to change the world. i am going to make a difference. i am going to make sure these people know that they are seen and important and significant. and i'm going to use my camera to do it." 

well the first day at the dream center we were sent to pick up furniture that was donated for foster care prevention. then we went and distributed food from a food truck. and you know what i only took one picture. on my phone. and it wasn't even a good one. the next day we walked around sunset boulevard and picked up trash in the afternoon we went to venice beach and passed out meals and spoke to the homeless. i didn't take a single photo. afterwards we did some touristy stuff. walked around, shopped, ate food. all the while i was thinking "is this it? is this really what i am going to be doing all week. this is not what i signed up for. i am making no difference. i have done nothing. this is a bust. i have been robbed of what was supposed to be a life changing event." and then you know what happened? things got worse. much much worse. 

i had a gallbladder attack in a starbucks bathroom. yup. i won't give you all the gory details. but basically what happens during these attacks is i am violently ill for 30-60 minutes. next to childbirth it's the worst pain i have experienced. sometimes i pass out. sometimes i break out in hives all over my body. and even after the attack is done i am out for the count. i am weak. i am in pain. i am dizzy and nauseated. so on our third day i got to lay in bed and recoup. all day long. alone. 

and of course i sat there replaying side by side my expectations for the trip and the reality of what it was. i was disappointed. i was supposed to bring back these glorious photos and footage to change these peoples lives! 

then i stopped. and realized how completely selfish i was being. i asked myself "why are you doing this? are you doing it to make a difference or are you doing it to show people that you made a difference?" what the what.

i seriously said out loud "this is not about me."

since i was young i wanted to make a difference. i wanted to fight for the underdogs of the world. i said i was going to go places and help people. and lately that passion has been at the front of my mind. i have been begging God and the universe to use me. use me. and when i was presented with an opportunity to be used i looked at it and said "eh. not exactly what i had in mind. thanks but no thanks." 

it's amazing what a change of perspective will do for you. the more i thought about it the more i thought maybe the reality is better than the expectation. i realize i was not out there taking pictures and being photojournalist of the year. but i got to come in contact with people. i got to talk to them genuinely and love on them and show them that they are important and not just a museum piece not just a project that i was there to document. These people are at the lowest points in their lives. And I realized I wasn't going to make them feel significant by shoving a camera in their face and saying "hey let me just go ahead capture how awful your life is." The people I met are amazing. Their sense of community and selflessness is unlike anything I have ever seen. I would never want them to feel disrespected or exploited. 

Am I saying I'm glad I didn't take photos and videos? No. It's still slightly disappointing. But I am glad that I was able to take a step back and get my priorities straight. I realized my heartbeat, my desire, is for people to feel loved. All people. Keith. Ricky. Lisa. Will. Loppy. and everyone else I had the honor of meeting in LA. And everyone else that I will meet in the future.

I really thought I was going to change LA. What I didn't expect was for me to be changed in such a radical way. My priorities and goals and desires have completely shifted. It's extremely difficult to put into words. I would love to go back and tell their stories. But first I need them to know they are loved and they have value. To do something like that you have to build real authentic relationships. The things that I want to do can not be accomplished in one week. So don't worry. I will have stories to tell. It's just going take a little longer than expected. 

I can't really write down all of the insane experiences I had. Lots of people have been texting messaging emailing me asking about my trip. If you'd like to hear stories let's get coffee. I never get tired of talking about Los Angeles. Also I was able to connect with and learn about some crazy awesome people who are doing great things. If you want to make a difference but don't know how go check out these organizations, donate, or if you're near LA go volunteer. 

http://2hands2cans.com/ I heard about this group our last day in LA. I am crazy in love with what they are doing. Providing people with resources to better themselves, resources that they would not otherwise have, is huge! 

http://www.dreamcenter.org/- The Dream Center is where I stayed and worked when I was in LA. So I can tell you first hand that what these people do is no joke! They do it all. Food truck, rescuing women from prostitution, transitioning families from homelessness, foster care prevention, and so much more. It's insane. 

http://www.redeye.org/  These guys. I got to meet Justin and do some youth mentoring in Compton while I was in Los Angeles. I can not say enough good things about him. His vision is beautiful and his passion for people is contagious. He is one of the most down to earth and genuine people I have ever met. And he has a wolf puppy. So.. Please please please go check out what he and his team are doing. Help out however you can.