En route from one errand to another this past weekend, I found myself in Copley Square. I was on the phone, ambling unhurriedly, and paused on the steps of Trinity Church to lean on a pillar and finish the call. Standing there, enjoying the sun and watching others do likewise, I felt a wave of nostalgia for the beautiful moments I shared on the lawn with friends last summer. I also noticed that the building’s columns made an excellent backdrop for my outfit, so then I really wanted a photo — in the name of art plus, full disclosure, a tinge of vanity. But I didn’t have company to take one for me! Yes, there were many people there and I could’ve asked someone, but I didn’t want to ask just anyone… You know? So I started walking away reluctantly, which is when I spotted Linh.
How did I choose her, of all the people in the square? She was a young woman, looked to be of my generation, and didn’t seem to be in any particular rush — in other words, someone whom I assumed would be adept at snapping a quick but good cellphone photo. Approaching her felt awkward, but Linh was friendly and we struck up conversation. She took photos of me and it turned out she’d been wanting pictures too, so I photographed her as well. We chatted about where we were from, where we lived, and what we did; she asked about some local landmarks and I got to exercise my decade-long knowledge of Boston. I then pointed her to her next destination, and we hugged goodbye after exchanging social media accounts.
Some might say I imposed upon Linh by asking for assistance, with a vain request no less, but I would argue that we both gained something from the momentary exchange beyond photographic mementos. In this era of heightened individualism (and D.I.Y selfies) we run the risk of forgetting how to initiate human connections. We’re encouraged to be self-sufficient to the point that we now feel uncomfortable asking for, or accepting, a hand with the smallest of tasks. This fear of inconveniencing others is almost certainly cultural, but I won’t draw comparisons between the two primary environments I have inhabited because I think the phenomenon can exist in any setting. It’s a matter of mindset. I do, however, recall a day my parents called out to a complete stranger walking on the street outside our house, asking him to come into our yard and take a family photo for us. He obliged and a lighthearted moment ensued — and those were the days of cumbersome film cameras too. When someone asks me to take a photo for them, I’m delighted to be a transient part of preserving a moment that clearly meant enough to be captured for posterity; I hope you feel likewise the next time such an opportunity finds you.
Alas, Linh, we didn’t even take a selfie! Or, rather, ask someone to take a picture of us. 😉
All the photos in this reflection were taken by Linh D. Truong.