Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lift Up Your Heads!

“Lift Up Your Heads!”  2011

I’m pretty sure the Reverend Randolph Weber had something different in mind when he titled this sermon, something more spiritually inclined, to be sure. But for me, lifting up your head is one of the best bits of advice any photographer can remember. There’s just so much to see above eye level.
In November of 2001, I was asked to make a presentation to the department heads of my city government, an audience that numbered well over a hundred by the time you included the senior managers. It took place on a Friday morning. After the presentation, my wife and I joined friends who owned their own airplane for a flight up to New York City. While everyone else was getting settled into our hotel, I went for a walk around Midtown Manhattan.
I don’t know how it is with you. I’ve interviewed so many thousands of people in course of my professional work that when I visit a big city I feel like I recognize half the people I see. Of course, most of the people I pass on the street are indeed complete strangers. But when you’ve been amassing this backlog of faces in your mind it’s only natural that you look at people and feel like you know them.
As I walked along Central Park South that afternoon, I passed a man whose appearance caught me a little off guard. He wasn’t a celebrity and I couldn’t figure out any reason I should know him. Yet he was strangely familiar. We both looked at each other with the same puzzled glance, but said nothing and continued on our respective ways.
We had a delightful weekend in Manhattan with our friends. On Sunday morning we decided to split up. My wife wanted to visit Ground Zero, which at that time was still emitting smoke and heat. Our friends went off to church at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. It seems the Reverend Weber was a prep school buddy of our friend.
While in church they had an experience like mine. They noticed that the couple sitting next to them in the pew were very familiar looking. After the service was over and people were leaving the church, our friends intercepted the couple and apologized for staring at them through the service. It turns out there was reason for them to have recognized the other couple because they are all members of the same Presbyterian church in Virginia Beach.
It turned out we had all arrived in New York on the same afternoon and were staying at the same little hotel. The kicker of the conversation between our friends and the other couple is that as our friends related that they, too, were in New York with another couple, the husband in the other couple said, “And I’ll bet you’re here with Chris Bonney. I passed him on the street Friday afternoon and he didn’t say a word!”
As it turned out, not only was this guy a fellow parishioner at our friends’ church, but he is also one of my sister’s older friends and, to complete the coincidence trifecta, he’s also the guy who’d been in charge of the presentation I’d made the morning before we left home for New York.
It’s a small world. Life up your heads or you might miss something.


  1. Although, not on as grand a coincidence scale, this incident was equally interesting. As you know, I had that pesky prostate problem back in the mid 90's and had a fabulous urologist named Donald Lynch. I also had an Aunt & Uncle on my fathers side who spent most of their life in Ocean View under the water tower on Marlowe Ave. Turns out my Aunt Margie (my fathers sister) passed away in the early 2000's and her funeral was held somewhere on Tidewater Drive. There was only a smattering of people there as they were old and were some of the last to go in their circle of friends. At the conclusion of the service, a man stood up two rows in front of me looking vaguely familiar. As he turned around, I recognized Dr. Lynch among the 20 or so people and was stunned as I asked how he knew my Aunt Margie. Turns out, he was a short wave/ham radio enthusiast as was Margie's husband Heywood and they had been conversing for years via morse code. Small world after all.

  2. Ha! I think it's when someone is "out of context," we don't always make that connection. How serendipitous.