CAN I HAVE THIS DANCEI used to be a photographer. It was a job I loved. I have done many weddings and proms as well as senior pictures and family reunions. It was a second job for me during a time in my life when I needed every dime I could earn. Today, I still take pictures for pleasure, but I also am sometimes convinced (reluctantly, because I know how much time it takes to do a good job) to take pictures for others.
It is usually a gift of love on my part, as I have a hard time charging for something that I enjoy doing. Often, I am asked to do more when the friends of the family see the pictures and would like the same type. It is not so much now, because I really need to upgrade all my equipment to digital. That is so expensive that I haven't gotten around to doing it yet. I want to, but the budget does not afford it easily.
Today, I was going through some of my old pictures and found one from one of the Proms that I worked at. It brought back memories of a very special dance. I used to work with a studio that did the photography for many of the proms in the Mesa area. I would go in, set up the picture area, take pictures all night, and leave after the dance and after we had taken down all the sets. It was exhausting! It was also exhilarating and fun! There is something about working with a group of teenagers. Sometimes they could be very hard. Especially when they thought they wanted pictures that really would not look good later. It was a real challenge to talk them out of the more crazy ideas and into a pose that they would be happy with. Crazy was and continues to be OK, to a point! But you have to be a little careful when it is Prom, otherwise they will all be back in the studio for retakes!
She was in a wheel chair, she could not talk or actively participate with them. She could only smile, gesture, and laugh, but what a wonderful, joy-filled smile lit up her face. Her date had bought her a corsage that was one of the most beautiful in the room. It was pinned on her totally amazing prom dress in such a way that it would not be crushed and she could look at it and enjoy it. This group of teens wheeled her into the dance, with compassion and understanding and love, but probably the most important thing for her that night, was the fun.
One of the girls in the group was her sister and the rest of them were friends. I talked with them while we were getting the group set up for their photos. They were so happy to be sharing this night with her! Her date told me that the group had gotten together and decided that she needed to go to a prom before she got out of high school that year. She was very intelligent, but could not communicate easily without special equipment. However, she was able to be involved in the planning and the preparation for this very special "first" date. The boy who took her, had gone to school with her for a few years and was also friends with her family.
She was given the place of honor in the middle of the picture with all the other teens gathered around her chair. It was amazing. There was no arguing, no longing faces, no ridicule. None of the other negative emotions that I had seen already that night. There was simply love and acceptance for a friend. The young girl smiled while I took her pictures and waved as she went off to the dance floor with her friends.
For me, the best part came later that evening, when a woman came up to me and asked me if I had helped with the group. She wanted to order more of the pictures for her family. That woman was the young girl's mother. She told me of how this group of kids came into her daughters life at the beginning of high school. How they had taken her under their wing and included her in their activities. How they had made her feel accepted, wanted, needed, and loved. Her mother had tears in her eyes as she shared with me the change that these seven teens had brought into her daughters life. We watched them all take turns on the dance floor with each other and with this beautiful young girl.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said:
"Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God's love for you.
God does not look on the outward appearance (see 1 Samuel 16:7). I believe that He doesn't care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He love us perfectly, Though we may feel lost and without compass, God's love encompasses us completely."
On that day, those teenagers showed me what it feels like to love completely. They taught me that part of being whole, is to make someone else feel the same way. They taught me that just because you are different, you don't have to be forgotten. They showed me that even though we are all imperfect, sometimes we can love others in a nearly perfect way. May we all treat others as those wonderful young people treated their very special friend.