The Value of Kindness   35 comments

The first image made after the act of kindness, sunset along the Columbia near home.

The first image made after the act of kindness, sunset along the Columbia near home.

Believe it or not this is a photography-related post.  I was recently surprised with a loaner camera!  A person I met through my photography club, someone who went to the same college as I but who I don’t know well at all, saw my situation and took pity on me.  She loaned me her Canon 60D because (she said) it wasn’t really being used.

Now I know plenty of other photographers who have cameras much better than that as backups (they shoot with top of the line cameras).  And I have spent time shooting with these people.  None of them were coming forward after learning of my recent misfortune, losing my camera gear over the waterfall.  This is despite the fact that it would not have disrupted their photography.  This was her only DSLR, she didn’t know me very well, and she made the sacrifice.  That’s real kindness.

Springtime in an Oregon forest.

Springtime in an Oregon forest.

Elowah Creek in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge tumbles down the canyon below the waterfall of the same name.

Elowah Creek in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge tumbles down the canyon below the waterfall of the same name.

You never learn about kindness except through acts like this.  If someone can afford to do something for another without being put out or inconvenienced; I think it’s nice of them.  But it’s not the same as this.  This is the kind of thing that humbles you and makes you think about your own decisions.  To go through life convincing yourself that you are kind and giving without ever doing something for another that causes you real inconvenience is the same as fooling yourself.

And now I’m searching too hard in my history for times when I have displayed real kindness.  I want to change this.  I want to be able to come up with instances right off the top of my head.  And I’m sure you do too!  The only way to accomplish this is to act when the time is right.  We all know that, but the thing we tend to forget is the happiness and joy that we derive from acts of real kindness.

Spring brings the water flowing down theverdant side canyons (such as Elowah Creek) of Oregon's Columbia Gorge.

Spring brings the water flowing down theverdant side canyons (such as Elowah Creek) of Oregon’s Columbia Gorge.

Pink bleeding hearts bloom in a green Oregon forest.

Pink bleeding hearts bloom in a green Oregon forest.

And so we go along making a flawed calculation; that is, focusing solely on how much inconvenience or pain comes from our decisions.  We forget about the payoff because we don’t experience it very often (if at all).  What I’m saying is that small acts of kindness that don’t cost us anything give us a good feeling, sure.  But it’s nothing compared to the feeling we get when we give something up in our lives in order to give something to another that will fundamentally change someone’s life.  My benefactor did not know me as well as other people did, but she knew enough.  She knew that I didn’t just lose a piece of equipment, I lost the ability to express myself and to share my love of nature and the world.

A spring rainstorm passes over the Columbia River Gorge in the Pacific Northwest.

A spring rainstorm passes over the Columbia River Gorge in the Pacific Northwest.

Spring flowers bloom on Rowena Crest in Oregon.

Spring flowers bloom on Rowena Crest in Oregon.

So she did two important things before the decision to give.  She figured out how much that gift would mean to me, and she ignored the fact that she would be putting aside her own passion for an uncertain amount of time.  When she saw my reaction I could tell right away it was worth it.  She was experiencing the benefit of a genuine act of kindness.  And this is an often-forgotten part of it’s value.  It doesn’t just benefit the receiver.

Most of us know this, but we have to stop and think about it.  We mostly act out of the belief that there are so many who need so much that we cannot possibly give enough.  Maybe if we won the lottery we could give to our heart’s content.  I say this because I know my own mind has fooled me in this way.  I am going to give back to this kind person in an effort to pay her back for her kindness.

Elowah Creek, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Elowah Creek, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge is tough to access during spring's high water, but it's still my favorite time to visit.

Oneonta Gorge is tough to access during spring’s high water, but it’s still my favorite time to visit.

But I know one thing for sure.  Even if I did nothing for her she would still derive a fundamental benefit from her gift.  And it will make her more likely to do it again in the future.  (By the way, if you’re reading this V, I’m using the word “gift” in a loose manner; I promise to give back your camera!)   The only question for me is, will I pay it forward?  Believe me I’ll be thinking about it.  If the opportunity arises to give when it genuinely costs me something, I hope I’m ready to pony up.

I hope your weekend went well and you have enjoyed these images shot with the loaner camera.  I also hope you’ll consider giving to my campaign in order to speed the return of her camera.  Although I will be giving it back at some point anyway, both her and I would love it to be at the end of this campaign when I am able to buy a replacement for my lost camera.  Also consider re-blogging or otherwise sharing my post The Campaign.  Thanks for reading and thanks so much for your support for my blog.

Michael

Dusk falls over the Columbia River where it flows along the border of Oregon and Washington through its famous gorge.

Dusk falls over the Columbia River where it flows along the border of Oregon and Washington through its famous gorge.

 

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35 responses to “The Value of Kindness

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  1. Beautiful photos but above all a beautiful act of kindness. Thank you for sharing. The world can always use more kindness…. She contributed and YOU contributed by sharing this.

  2. Absolutely breath-taking work…ahhhhh

  3. Michael, this is a true heartfelt story…loved every line of it. So wonderful to hear the goodness of the human spirit.

  4. That’s an awesome story. What a wonderful gift your friend gave you. I am sure that you will pay it forward when you get the opportunity. Absolutely beautiful shots!

  5. So glad that Vladimir at “Wind Against Current” featured your blog — I look forward to following.

  6. Beautiful photos! There are a lot of wonderful and kind people in this world, thankfully. Best wishes to you.

    Sweet as a Picture
  7. Stunning photos, and all due to the kindness of some person!

  8. Terrific post! I enjoyed this quite a bit!

  9. Reblogged this on Sewingforlife! and commented:
    I’m re-blogging this post. Michael lost his equipment and was loaned another camera to continue his work. His work is amazing! I loved reading about his reaction to this gift of kindness…

  10. What a wonderful story!! And your photos are breathtaking! Thank you for the smiles… 🙂

  11. Reblogged this on Movin' on and commented:
    I don’t often reblog either, but this one touched me deeply. The images are an extra added bonus….

  12. Reblogged this on Babsje Heron and commented:
    “The gear had been pounded with tons of water for almost an hour.” 

    Earlier this month, photographer Michael Flaherty nearly went over a waterfall to rescue his camera gear.

    What happened next was a remarkable act of generosity:  “This was her only DSLR, she didn’t know me very well, and she made the sacrifice.  That’s real kindness.”

    Michael is a photographer of sensitive talent, and I especially appreciate his evocative shots from the Columbia River Gorge. I not a prolific re-blogger – you can count on one hand the posts I’ve reblogged – but wanted to share this heartwarming story. 

  13. Heart-warming story, Michael. I would like to reboot this post, but don’t see the reblog button on this one. Can you please enable it? Then people can see this post with its link to your “campaign” post embedded in it, too.

  14. Standing ovation shot! O…really I enjoyed it! Fantastic!

  15. Hi Michael, This post is so awesome…from your heart. As a priest I never know what makes a difference to people no matter how I tried to help. One day I encountered an acquaintance that I hadn’t seen in years. She said, “you know you changed my life.” I was a little bewildered. She said “Remember you told me that when I go to Washington DC to go visit places like the National Cathedral, the Zoo, White House etc. Well, I did and I learned I didn’t have to be afraid to go places while my husband was in his meetings. Before I’d just sit in the hotel. It made me a stronger better person to get out and go.”

    I got a full scholarship to undergraduate school because the school nurse cared. Michael, I didn’t even know who she was. In appreciation, I worked hard in college.

    These are all experiences that change our lives

    I was just more comfortable sending this by e-mail; hope you don’t mind.

    Take care,

    Annette

    Annette Arnold-Boyd
  16. What wonderful news and a beautiful reminder about acts of kindness. I can see your joy through these photos and it makes me smile tonight, thank you. 🙂

  17. So happy to hear you’re back shooting again. That camera is doing wonderful things which shows how much effect the operator has! Great story and good lessons you shared.

  18. Beautiful story! I’m so happy to hear about this gift…. Great lesson too for all of us. Lovely to see your images, as usual 🙂

  19. The good thing about this is you acknowledge that this is gift. That it was loaned to you without any conditions. I admire her and as you’ve shown it is not lost on you.

  20. It is amazing how kind people can be. I am wondering what differences you are finding between the 6od and your old camera?

    • Yes it is! The differences are many; my old one was a 5DIII. I used to have a 50D and there are even a lot of differences there. I just love having a DSLR to use again, so no complaints!

  21. Indeed.

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