(Prayer offered by Emily Smith on the Public Address system for La Salle Academy on Tuesday, 12 November)
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God…
Friday night my mother and father came over my apartment for dinner. We were having just a lovely time, until, between bites of her chicken, my mother walked over to the bookshelf, lifted a frame, and only half-seriously accused, “Did you take this picture from a box in the attic?”
“Maybe. But you just leave them up there!” I replied. It’s true – most of the family photos live in the attic of my parents’ home. They lie haphazardly stacked and jumbled in cardboard boxes with the word “Pictures” scrawled across the flaps in permanent marker. And my mother is forever accusing me of stealing photos here and there to decorate my apartment. Sure, I’ve taken some…but it has only been to bring them out into the light. It has often frustrated me that the photos are there but seldom viewed save the few times a year someone drags a box down the ladder and flips through the moments of our family’s life. I never understood this until recently.
Last week at the pep rally, Mr. Tanski remarked that he wanted to bring his daughter to the game that night if it wasn’t too cold and she wasn’t too tired. He said, “I think these types of events are the things we remember from childhood.” I agree, in fact, there’s a photo somewhere in my family’s attic of my brother, Patrick and me – ages 6 and 8 – standing on the sidelines of a La Salle football field (back when it was literally just a field). I remember that day – the air the contained the chill of the season and the warmth of chimney smoke, the zipper of my coat was continuously scratching my neck, and my brother, father and I tossed a football as the team played in the background. I hadn’t thought about that day in a long time, but when Mr. Tanski mentioned his daughter, I felt I was there all over again. That experience,and moments like it, are an integral part of who I am. This significance of family and the importance of spending time together are values my parents fostered in their children from a young age. This picture of my brother and me, and others like it – remind me of this.
There’s a solemnity that comes with some photographs – especially printed ones. There’s a silence that comes with looking and contemplating and remembering. The power in memory is that it reminds us of our foundation.
But not all pictures are significant and there’s a danger with putting too much emphasis on images. I fear that our culture has turned the function of photographs from memory-capturing into image crafting and self-advertising. We are obsessed with taking and posting as many pictures as possible and, in doing so, we have lost the significance of moments. We are worried about other people seeing what we do and who we are with instead of actually spending time living.
My mother likes to keep her pictures closed, stacked and labeled. She doesn’t need to see them to know that they are there. I guess in this way, she is the Anti-Instagram Queen. And now that is something I admire. Family photos, to her, are for the family. And she wants to keep them as such – a comfort and reminder of the past.
I challenge us all – next time the temptation to post to Instagram creeps in, save that photo for yourself, print it and put it in your attic or your basement. It’ll mean more in the long run.
I won’t take pictures from boxes in the attic anymore – but I know the photos are there and I can go back to them whenever I want.
Let us pray.
Help us to remember and continue to build our foundations. Guide us to create memories and moments that will sustain our futures. Grant us the wisdom to take the photos that matter.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts…Forever.
Emily Smith (English teacher at La Salle Academy)