Did I Make A Difference?

Photo Above: Women are taught how to prepare food from what they would have already at home in a more nutritious way to improve their families health at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana. [NIKON D2X, Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/20, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 75)]

I spent a good chunk of my life letting go of myself from the monster called anxiety.

But lately, a creepy little monster by the name ‘Am I Making a Difference’ has surfaced.

The beast most often haunts me at night when I am about to fall asleep. I put my head down on my pillow, spent from the day and I wonder: Am I making a difference? Is anything I’m doing really helping anyone?

President George W. Bush speaking at Georgia Tech

When I took photos of news events I knew I was just relaying what happened that day to the audience from my front row seat.

Mrs. Coretta Scott King Founder and Chair–Elect The King Center speaks at the 75th Birthday Celebration Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Commemorative Service [NIKON D100, Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX APO IF HSM, Mode = Manual, ISO 400, 1/60, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 300)]
Corey Navarre attempts to ride Hard Candy during the 2004 RBR Atlanta Classic at the Georgia Dome February 7, 2004. [NIKON D100, Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX APO IF HSM, Mode = Manual, ISO 1600, 1/350, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 300)]

Most of my career has been documenting first world issues. However, throughout my career and especially the last 10 years I have spent more time in the Third World documenting their issues. I am using the term “Third World” as shorthand for poor or developing nations.

Jay Shafto (wearing the Boston Red Sox hat), Paul Sow (white polo shirt) Antoine Tarnagda (brown shirt) and Zongo Tarnagda (on the bicycle) in the town of Soumagou. Antoine and Zongo are part of the Bissa tribe and Paul is part of the Fulani tribe. [NIKON D2X, Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/180, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 75)]

My first trip to Africa was in 2005. For the first time I saw how used liquor bottles were repurposed for many things. One is using them to sell petro by the side of the road. There were few gas stations and so for a business people would go and fill bottles and then resale them on the side of the road.

Kamele Alphonse Hema is the pastor of the CMA church in Dakora. His wife’s name is Clarisse. David and Tami Wood interviewed him at his home. [NIKON D2X, Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/60, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 30)]

I saw first hand how people survived with no electricity, no cupboards full of food like we have here at my home in Georgia.

Rose Nantonah the nurse is setting the IV with a small child patient at the Baptist Medical Center in Nalerigu, Ghana. [NIKON D2X, AF Zoom 18-50mm ƒ/2.8G, ISO 800, ƒ/2.8, 1/80, Focal Length = 27]

I was able to go to the hospital to see the care being provided by just two doctors.

David Oman Cifuentes Velázquez shows the Frontera de Cristo delegation the coffee on the plant. David also shared how he crossed the border illegally and worked on golf courses around Atlanta, Ga before the coffee cooperative was formed. Back then they were only getting about $30 for a bag of coffee, but today they get $160 which let him return home to family and return to farming coffee. [NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/50, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 15)]

I later went to the Chiapas region of Mexico to do a story on coffee farmers. Due to roasters under paying them for their coffee for years many of them came to the states do work in our communities to support their families back home. Telling their story we were helping them to return home and be prosperous by selling their coffee at fair prices because they were able to form a cooperative and through a nonprofit’s help buy a roaster that made them competitive. My purpose was to spread the story so more farmers could join the cooperative.

Claudio Cesar Aguirre is seen here in front of the Chicken Coop that with the help of Honduras Outreach created. He is president of their communities economic development. He is thrilled because now that they have an egg farm they can now think of adding a bakery. [NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 160, 1/100, ƒ/8, (35mm = 14)]

I was priviledged to tell the success story of Honduras Outreach Inc. to their supporters. We put together a video that was played when the President of Honduras came to Atlanta to present them an award for all they had done to help the Agalta Valley in Honduras.

The President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernández Visits Atlanta to honor HOI [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 6400, 1/250, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 28)]

Here is the video I did for that event back in 2014.

Mother and her little boy carried in kaitenge. They are staying here at the Hôpital Baptiste Biblique in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1800, 1/200, ƒ/4, (35mm = 32)]

Last year I was priviledged to go to Togo, West Africa to help tell the story of a hospital that was built in the 1980s and had really no improvements since then and was in major need of upgrades and expansion to meet the needs of that community.

Here is the video I did for that project:

I don’t know how much money was raised due to my work through the years. I do not know how many people’s lives were touched and felt a call to help others because of the stories I have help to tell.

Roswell Presbyterian Church Children’s Christmas Program on December 24, 2005, in Roswell, Georgia. [NIKON D2X, Sigma APO 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG HSM, Mode = Manual, ISO 800, 1/60, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 450)]

One of the biggest stories I am documenting, which most everyone is doing as well, is that of my family story.

Dorie receives the 2014 Columbia Theological Seminary Pioneering Ministry Award [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 3200, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 62)]

I would say that the most important story I am capturing is one of my own families milestones.

Chelle Leary, my daughter, is wearing James Harrell’s Shako. James is part of the Summerall Guard at The Citadel with Chelle’s big brother Nelson Lalli. [NIKON D3S, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4500, 1/1000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 28)]

We all go to each other’s events to celebrate with them. They become part of all of our lives.

The Citadel: Commissioning Service, Lifetime Membership for Alumni Club, Summerall Guard 2012 and Long Gray Line [NIKON D3, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 320, 1/80, ƒ/13, (35mm = 18)]
Taylor Lalli playing T-Ball.
Family Photo Stanley Leary, Dorie Griggs, Nelson Lalli, Taylor Lalli Chelle Leary [NIKON D3S, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 800, 1/320, ƒ/8, (35mm = 70)]

I am always asking these days, “Did I make a difference today?”

I hope so, but we just don’t always know the impact we make on people. So getting a note from someone telling you how you are making a difference is huge.

During the Pandemic I started an online Zoom meeting for communicators. I call the group FOCUS [Fellowship of Communicators Uniting Socially].

I got a note from one participant saying, “First off I would like to thank you for this great fellowship group.  I am really enjoying it a lot.  I feel like I am being watered like a plant and not drying up, like I would if I was completely alone.  Such a fine group of people with great talent.”

So I do think I am helping someone.

Earlier I got this note from another person in the group, “Thank you for hosting a great discussion again today. I am humbled to be involved and grateful for the substantive topics and questions that you and others raise. I find it personally stimulating to hear the depth of the dialogue. This has been missing from my career for a long time.”

I think we are all wired to serve one another, but I also think we are wired to need affirmation, which helps us know if we need to modify our efforts to make a difference in this world.

Wherever you are in your life, show up. Generous, confident, engaged.

Stanley