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Children are Joy-Seekers

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 Cleveland

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Something special happens when you travel. Many things seem different from the place you left, and yet some things seem universal, too.

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If I’m lucky, I get to see a lot of different faces in every place I visit. Not just pass them on the street, but really look at them. Get introduced. Make eye contact before I duck behind the camera and get to work.

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Working with kids is energizing for me — I notice I start to drag a little if I haven’t had a conversation with a child for a few days. Their perspective is always fresh and I love when they say unexpected things.

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The experience of childhood is one of those universal things I come into contact with everywhere I go — trips “home” to Cleveland, west coast, east coast, and abroad. And, the same truth always resounds: children are joy-seekers.

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They’re simply seeking out life’s next joy from one moment to the next. It’s the best way to live, and from seeing children everywhere live this out, I’ve come to realize we’re born knowing how to do it.

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So I sometimes wonder why adults don’t live this way more often. Why are there so many self-help books about learning to live joyously? Do we seriously think we don’t know how?

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I rather think it’s not a lack of knowledge at all. I think we want permission. I think, like the little kids at my photo shoots, we want someone to tell us it’s okay to laugh or jump or squirm or shout.

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Have you ever been sitting in a conference room in a very intense meeting and someone suddenly makes a joke? What do you feel? For me, it doesn’t even have to be that funny – just one other person in the room cracking a smile feels like *relief.* Relief from all the pent-up adulthood “normalcy,” we’re expected to enact all the time. Relief from not smiling.

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I love working with kids because they give me permission to smile and laugh and play games. In fact, if I don’t do these things, I seldom get the genuine smiles parents want me to capture.

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Kids have to trust that I can be considered one of them on some level. So, I take their cues, and quickly give myself permission to experience joy. No wonder I start to feel depleted if I haven’t had a photo shoot with kids for a few days. 

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How strange it is that a child’s exclusive focus becomes something adults need to give themselves permission to seek. One look at a child’s grin should be enough permission. What could possibly be wrong with that glee, radiating from within? What possible reason could we have to keep ourselves from experiencing that?

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Yet, we go on with our day, get into our routines. We forget to play. We find things to get irritated about. I can find a great many things to get irritated about sitting in one city block of traffic in San Francisco.

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What if, instead, I tried to spy my favorite color, looked for firetrucks and helicopters, counted the number of times I could spot the letter S.

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And, when I was feeling better, let my mind wander to what this adult brain of mine could create in the world if I approached it more often with childlike joy.

If you like what’s happening here, please take a moment and vote for my photo business so it can be eligible for a Mission Main Street Grant from Chase. It would help me expand my photo tour and put out my book on kids and photography.

These photos were taken at the Playmatters toy stores as part of our mini photo session event in the Greater Cleveland area.