Crime, death, destruction and all the other bad news can become so common in that even as journalists we can forget to see the other side of the good.
We can spend all our time showing and telling the bad news that we skip the good to get on to telling the story of the next tragedy. Within every tragedy there is usually someone or something that shines a light of hope, love, or just a reminder that a little caring can make a difference. Don’t forget to tell those stories.
In 2004 I had the privilege to make two trips to Guatemala. While in Chichicastenango, Guatemala documenting missionary and humanitarian aid work there, I was introduced to a sad story. Among the Quiche-speaking indigenous people of that area, statistically 60 out of every 1,000 babies die before reaching the age of five in this region or Guatemala. I saw extremely underweight babies, a child with clubbed feet and hundreds of women bringing their children to a milk program to help them provide nutrition for their children. Thatâ€™s where the silver-lining started showing up.
I spent time documenting a clinic and milk program, but one of the highlights of my time there was getting to spend time with a little boy named Daniel.
Daniel was one of those babies that would statistically be unlikely to live past five, but Daniel had beat the statistics. He was six years old when I met him. As a baby he had been through an extreme fever and was mentally and physically impaired as a result. He is considered blind and over his six years of life had never spoken although his sensitivity made him scream when touched. He lived on a wide bed in his familyâ€™s cement block house under a tin roof where his mother provided the best care she could.
That was the sad reality, but the story I got to tell was of how that reality was changing. Through a rudimentary therapy program, Daniel was showing improvements and was responding well and gradually began to expressed enjoyment of the attention and therapy he received.
Six-year-old Danielâ€™s mother gives him a drink during a therapy session at their home. Daniel is physically disabled since a high fever during his infancy. Through the medical assistance of a missionary outreach, his physical condition and responses have been improving.
Daniel giggles while being tickled by caregiver Shawn Helwer. Through physical therapy, Daniel has gone from screaming when touched to giggling and laughing during his semi-regular therapy sessions provided by volunteers from a local medical outreach in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.
Whether youâ€™re covering a crime-ridden neighborhood or showing how the economic downturn is sending people into bankruptcy, donâ€™t gloss over it or stop there. Dig a little deeper and find the stories of how lives are also being helped by the people and organizations that are bringing a ray of light into the sad situations of life. Your informative and objective story might actually help someone see that there is a reality of hope as well as despair.
For information about the organization that is helping provide care for Daniel and other children in Guatemala, visit www.aselsi.org
Michael Shead is a photojournalist and writer with experience in small town journalism as well as international video documentaries. He serves as Communications Director at Resurrection Life Church in Grandville, Michigan. He also teaches photojournalism at Cornerstone University.