• Eating: Caramel corn. One of a thousand splendid snacks sent over by my sweet mother.
  • Listening to: Peter Bjorn & John.
  • Wearing: My high-waisted denim, lace-up boots & a plain, gray sweatshirt. After all, it’s midterm week.

Hello, cheri, & good morning! (Because no matter the time this gets published, as I begin typing this post the tiny digital one in the top left-hand corner of my computer screen has blinked to a two, putting my verdict at 12:42 a.m. & still not asleep.)

1 a.m. isn’t such an atypical bedtime for a college student such as myself, but tonight I probably should have planned better. In just 5 short hours my alarm clock will begin humming, you see, & I’ll be on my way — eyes barely open — out the door & down the road to Area Relief Ministries to spend the morning waking up with a passel of new faces, & maybe even a few friends. The men I’ll be meeting with will be piling off of buses & up the stairs of the lofted lair they call their own, dragging behind them their fittings from the night they just spent on cots in the sanctuaries & gyms of different church buildings around town. At least I’ll have the luxury of getting out of bed this morning.

Area Relief is a local nonprofit working to combat homelessness and poverty in Jackson.

As for my purpose in being there, I’m documenting. This semester I’m part of a photojournalism class that, each spring, undertakes a 16-week project. This year’s goal? To get a homeless shelter in town. And we’re building it with stories & stills.

I only just met the man I’ve been assigned to follow — the person whose life I’ve been asked to politely invite myself into — and he welcomed me with grace. We chatted over a cloud of coffee-cup steam about life, purpose, pasts, love & love lost. An hour later, it was time we both went on our way to school—GED classes for him, theory & research for me.

Not long ago, I had an enlightening conversation with a good friend & one of the realest people I’ve ever known. We were discussing empathy & our new-found soft hearts for those we’ve never met, or have never really bothered getting to know. Like I’ve said before, this is an essential element of not only who I am, but of my craft, as well. But the question remained: How hard do we come down on those who know us best? Certainly, strangers deserve our solace, but how much more so our brothers & sisters, community members, roommates, family & friends? Service shouldn’t be reserved for only those who visibly need it. After all, the whole idea goes hand-in-hand with grace. And that’s what grace is all about — being undeserved.

Here’s to all the lovelies in my life who have stooped to show me grace of late (for example, all of you for still reading my blog despite the recent gaps in posting. Sometimes college gets the better of me. Spring break is coming, though, along with much more blog updating, I hope!)