One of my hardest decisions yesterday was whether to have crunchy peanut butter or crunchy almond butter on my Honeycrisp apple slices. I opted for the peanut butter and plopped down in a comfy chair in our sunroom to read a book I’d ordered from Amazon, Humans by Brandon Stanton.
At first, I skimmed through the pages looking at the photographs. It’s amazing how a skilled photographer can capture not only the image itself, but also something of the subject’s mood, essence, and personality. The woman on page 119 is crying as she relates her story to Stanton, and one gets the feeling that there are always unshed tears behind her smiles. Her mother hated her. Except for spirits and fairies and Mother Mary, she’s lived a lonely existence.
The best thing that ever happened to me was having parents who loved me.
Speaking of mothers, the child on page 87 visits his mom in prison every fifteen days. No one else wants him…not even his grandmother. His siblings have little to do with him, and his uncle beats him up. Although he sleeps on the street, the week before Stanton took his picture, a man bought him clothes and food and said he could sleep at his house.
A friend often says little children just want someone to hold their hands and tuck them in at night. They need food and hugs and shelter too.
On page 338, there’s the image of a man whose story revolves around his favorite child, the one he “loved most.” When he was a youngster, the favorite would sometimes put some of his toys in the dad’s briefcase, and as he got older, the child would call and check on his father and sometimes take him to lunch. But there was trouble brewing in Paradise, and the father learned that his son was stealing from him in order to pay off loan sharks. Now elderly, the father has only his pension to live on and hides from his beloved son, mainly because he knows if he saw his son, he would help him again.
I think of my children and grandchildren every hour of every day, but no one has stolen from me or broken my heart. I just wish they’d call more often.
The strong woman looking at the photographer (and the reader) from pages 282 – 291 is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Of the twelve people in her family, she is the only survivor. When the soldiers came to the house of a Tutsi widow where she was staying with her mother and sisters, she jumped out of the window and hid in a tree, listening to their screams until she fainted. She had already seen her father killed, and they “finished him off with machetes.”
I use mosquito spray when they’re buzzing around. The woman in the story reports that malaria was an ever-present danger for those who hid in the swamps and estimates that fifty percent of the people who hid there were eaten by crocodiles
Humans has some uplifting stories too. And yet, for some reason the images and stories that demonstrate struggle are the ones that touched my mind and spirit. It’s not all apples and peanut butter out there, and the contrast between my challenges and those of many of the people in the book are stark. I can’t save the world, but I can share kind words, money, food, and hugs.