I had two choices, and I made the wrong one. 
Toward the end of March when things were heating up with SARS-Cov-2 and the executive stay home order came down, I realized I needed to cancel the upcoming photo shoots I had on my schedule. (That’s not the bad decision I’m talking about, though...don’t worry, I’m getting to that part.)
At that point, though I didn’t realize it consciously at the time, I needed to decide what my attitude was going to be. Would I choose to be defeated and helpless, or would I stay positive and rise to the new challenge of adapting in these new, extreme circumstances? 
Unfortunately, I did not get off to a great start. I spent way too much time ingesting news articles and social media posts and allowed myself to become overly frustrated at pretty much everything, including but not limited to the virus itself, government leaders and politicians, lack of clear data and reliable information, and of course, all the toilet paper hoarding. 
After about a week or so of this, a dear friend of mine, Connie, sent me a different sort of social media post. It was about a photographer in another state who was going around taking photos of people outside their homes and donating the proceeds to covid-related charities. She was calling it her #frontstepsproject. 
I’ll be completely honest. My first thoughts were that it didn’t sound very “social distancing” appropriate and that it sounded like a LOT of work to do for free. I dismissed the idea and went about my day...but it kept coming back to my mind over and over again. I started thinking about our local food bank and how I had heard they were experiencing a huge influx of families needing their services. I had another decision to make. I could sit around being disappointed and wait for things to change, or I could get out there and do something that could make a positive impact. 
I am so glad I made the right choice this time! 
I got to work planning and posting about this idea on social media, and my enthusiastically supportive sister, Andrea, volunteered to be the fist one to pose for a #frontstepsproject picture. I didn’t know how much interest there would be, but by the following weekend, I had fifteen families signed up! 
Look at all of those beautiful, smiling faces! About half of these amazing families I already knew, and the other half I got to meet for the first time as they waved from their doorways. 
I came home from that first day of shooting literally grinning from ear to ear. It felt like my heart was singing. Every person I met, friend and stranger alike, greeted me with such warmth and kindness, and it made me realize I was actually receiving way more than I was giving. 
I decided to do another round of photos the following weekend, and this time I had so many families sign up that I ended up splitting it into two weekends. 
Over the course of the month, I ended up photographing fifty-two families who collectively donated just over $3,200 to our FISH Food Bank. 
In a thank you email from FISH treasurer, Becky Bugge, she said, “As you may know, FISH Food Bank serves an average of nearly 400 hungry families each month; but the number of families served has doubled in recent weeks. Your donation will help us to purchase needed food items for these families, including meat, cheese, eggs, milk, peanut butter, and fresh produce…With an ever-increasing demand for assistance, FISH could not operate the food bank without the support and generosity of those who care about their friends and neighbors in need…Thank you on behalf of everyone whose lives you have touched with your generosity – because no one should be hungry.”
To all of my readers who participated in this project and donated generously, thank you, once again! 
The best thing that has come out of this project for me is how instrumental it has been in completely changing my mindset. In times like these, it's really easy to hunker down and focus on the things that we need for ourselves, but when I started looking outside my own little bubble and allowed myself to think about how I could give instead of take, beautiful, amazing things started to happen. I became surrounded by other people with generous, giving hearts, and I felt like my soul itself was being uplifted. This experience has been life changing for me, and I want to carry this new giving paradigm with me into the future, whatever it may hold!
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-Elizabeth
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