Taking the time to notice

If you can take 15 minutes of your day to appreciate the beauty of humanity (something we don’t see enough of), I urge you to watch this short film, Yves & Variation, by U.S. filmmaker Lydia Cornett. It’s a documentary intended to help us see the richness and depth of others. The film opens with a concierge, Yves Deshommes, at work in a New York apartment building, wearing his uniform. Too often when we come across workers in the service industry who wear some type of uniform, we cannot see that employee as a person. A reviewer of this film notes, “A strange thing happens when you put a person behind a counter or in a uniform. These props or costumes can make the person disappear, flattening them into a certain role that they play in a given situation—as shop assistant, nurse, waiter, judge. Often, we encounter people only in a single role, so it can be easy to miss the other facets that make them whole.”

In this early moment of the film, Deshommes greets various tenants and guests. But, quickly we see him do something a doorman doesn’t usually do—take out and play a violin. The film then cuts away to him with his children. Questions begin to emerge about just who is Deshommes? In his home, he is seen moving multiple covered works of art around his small apartment. Then, we see him in his native Haiti, speaking to artists painting landscapes of the natural beauty of that tormented country. Then, we understand how dynamic and how amazing Deshommes is. Yes, he is a concierge, but he also is a musician, a father, an art broker, and a philanthropist who is selling art to raise money for a school in Haiti.

Let’s ask ourselves—how often do we not take the time to get to know people in our day-to-day interactions? Do we slow down when we are in a store or restaurant to ask questions and learn about those we interact with?

The film is particularly powerful for me, having spent some time in Haiti. We are reading and seeing a lot about Haiti in the news with the political turmoil there, another devastating earthquake, and now a migrant crisis at the border of Texas that has spiraled out of control. Haiti is a country that has suffered so much. For years, Colorado Academy has had a partnership with a school in Nordette, Haiti, and we took students there for service learning. We partner with The Road to Hope, an amazing philanthropic organization started by Rich and Lisa Harris, a great pair of CA parents. As a high school student at CA, their son, Zach (class of 2017), started orchestral programs at three different schools. The images of Deshommes playing the violin took me back to seeing Zach hand out instruments and teach students how to play music while he was in Haiti. It’s unfortunate that we cannot now take students to Haiti, given the unrest, since interacting with the residents of Nordette was an impactful learning experience.

As this film shows, philanthropy cannot be a one-time act. To really make change, we have to be like Deshommes and dig in, making a long-term commitment to whatever cause we believe in. I hope that you will set aside time and watch this film and discuss it with your children. Amazing people are all around us. Pause and be aware of them. They very well may surprise and delight you with their talents and passions in ways you could never imagine.