13014193094_12d9c5cf66I touch random strangers.  I’ll reach right out and literally grab them.  I never even stop to consider whether or not they might find that weird or inappropriate.  I just do it and never look back.  That’s how I met Jei-laya.

My husband and I were busily cooking up and serving apps for a fundraiser at a beautiful winery nestled into the mountains of Central Pennsylvania.  I love a good party, and had come armed with my new camera and renewed sense of purpose.  Who knew what I might catch.

We were having a glass of wine on the picturesque front porch before all the festivities began when SHE breezed by.  Her beautiful smile and gorgeous spirit took my breath away.  I’m not sure how long it took me to hoist myself out of that comfortable Adirondack chair but I’d be surprised if it was more than two seconds.

She was surrounded by friends – friends with infectiously contagious smiles of their own.   I gently grabbed her elbow.

“You have to let me shoot you!” I enthusiastically insisted.

She stood there for a moment and looked down at my camera.  “OK!” She replied with the exact same level of enthusiasm.

I dragged her from tree to tree, stone wall to outdoor fireplace.  I clicked away as we chatted up a storm finding out more about each other in ten minutes than some ‘friends’ might know in a lifetime.

She was adopted too!  She was about to graduate from Penn State and was part of an A Cappella group, many of whom were right alongside Jei-laya at the fundraiser that day.  We spoke on and off throughout the evening while she did her best to assist the people throwing the event and I did my best to assist my patient husband.

Eventually we talked about shooting the group’s album cover and that they had a Winter Show coming up!  I gave her my card and hoped she wouldn’t fall off the radar.  There was something so special about her, about all of them.

I went home and immediately edited the shots I took of her that day.  I was reminded again of just how stunning she was inside and out.  We connected on Facebook, I came to their Winter Show, we scheduled the album cover shoot, and after one storm cancelation they drove the 45 minutes to my studio and we had that shoot.

This wasn’t one of those ‘I’ll throw you a like every now and then on Facebook’ kind of relationships.  Jei asks about my kids BY NAME.  I follow along watching her sing, practice, receive much-deserved academic accolades and proudly dread each day she comes closer and closer to graduation.  I will miss her.  I will miss them all.

Yes, I touch strangers.  I reach right out and touch them.  But more importantly, they touch me back and they don’t remain strangers for very long.12935629045_a31afe8761