I once asked a talented photographer friend in Nepal to give one piece of advice to traveling photographers. She said this, “If you tell someone you’re going to give them the photo.. keep your promise!”
She then shared about a time she asked to photograph an old woman in a mountain village. She promised to bring the photo with her the next time she came through that village. The old woman sort of [chuckled] and said that in her long life many travellers had made the same promise, but not one of them ever kept it. So, my friend decided to break the cycle.
The next time she came through that village she brought along a printed photograph, found the old woman and gave her the print. She told me that this small act made the old woman extremely happy and it opened a door to build a relationship of trust with the old woman.
After hearing that story I decided to start doing the same. Already I’ve had several opportunities to keep my promise to people I meet in my travels. One such encounter happened this way:
One hot and sunny day, my friend and I were walking up a steep mountain road in Nepal. About half-way up the hill we passed by a nun and two of her students trying to take a group photo. But their camera didn’t seem to be working. So I offered to take a picture with my camera promising to send the picture when I returned home. She agreed, so I took the photo, asked the nun to write her contact information on a small piece of paper, and we parted ways.
Back home, as I was sorting through all of my notes and receipts, I discovered the crumpled piece of paper where the nun had not written her email address, but only the name of her ‘nunnery’ – I think that’s what they’re called. I should have paid better attention in Catechism!
“Okay Rob! Remember what your photographer friend said; keep your promise.”
Now I had a choice to make. I could simply consider my promise void because she had not given me a complete email address. Or, I could “take the dirt road” as it were, and try to reach the nun through the information she had given me.
With the powerful story of the old village woman etched deeply into my soul, I remembered my promise. I began searching the web – it actually took only 10-15 minutes – when I found something that seemed to match the name on the paper. So I sent the photo to the main email address and waited.
Sadly, I never heard back from the recipient, so I don’t actually know if the photo ever reached her. But I can sleep at night knowing I did what I could to keep my promise, even if nobody ever finds out.