Biff America: Moments – on ﬁlm and in your mind
Ryan Summerlin September 7, 2012
They are moments in time, caught on film or witnessed by the observant. Often they reflect a sentiment as universal as the mood of the nation or as private as a simple gesture of one lover toward their mate.
Before every frog and their dog had cellphone cameras, and even the illiterate are allowed media access and blogs, one image could resonate across an entire nation.
I’m thinking of the photo of little John-John Kennedy saluting at the grave sight of JFK. For me, no image better reflects our nation’s collective grief.
There was also that photo of the young, naked Vietnamese girl, crying in pain and running down a dirt path as if her speed could soothe the burns of napalm. That photo was a vivid depiction of collateral suffering of a despicable war.
Those two examples were captured on film for the world to see. But as profound and precious are the everyday scenes that can be the opportunistic gifts given to the observant.
I love to write about these short, innocuous, yet telling moments.
I once wrote of sitting in a small town park in Ireland when a gang of young teens 13- or 14-year-olds invaded. They entered with much energy and noise – boys and girls laughing and shoving. The girls had fair skin and coltish bodies. The boys freckles, unruly hair, scuffed shoes, shirttails out. I was sitting on a bench reading, and they passed within several feet of me seeming not to notice. Amongst the chaos was a pair – young boy and girl – quieter than the rest. They were surrounded by disorder but seemed to only have eyes for each other. Almost on cue, the young girl nudged the boy’s hand; she did this a few times before he got the hint and discreetly took her hand in his and they continued on. No one in the group seemed to notice, but I’d like to believe that, for the two of them, the moment was electric.
I also recall watching another couple walking down their driveway in rural Montana as I biked by – but these two looked to be in their 70s. They had just gotten their mail and were strolling back toward their home. The old man reached over and patted his wife’s butt, she pushed his hand away, and I could hear her laugh. A few steps later, he reached over and placed his arm around her shoulders as they walked. He then slid his arm down and rested it just above her bottom. She made no protest, and he left it there.
Love, suffering and grief were all displayed in those moments both on film and in my memory. Last week, I caught a glimpse of hope (at least it made me hopeful.)
It wasn’t anything as poignant as John-John saluting his father’s casket, powerful as the young victim of an unnecessary war, or heartwarming as love, both young and old.
But all the same it was a moment that gave me hope.
I was stopped at an intersection waiting for the light to change. Glancing over I saw a young gal, early 20s, standing on the curb. First thing I noticed was her spiked and colored hair, then the tattoos up and down her arms; I wondered what her parents thought of her appearance. Our eyes met and I looked away, and she began hurrying toward my vehicle.
As she approached, I had two thoughts, either she was going to ask for a ride or she was going to ask for money; wrong on both counts.
By the time the light changed she was next to me, but slightly in front of my vehicle, so I dared not pull forward. It was then that I saw her bend over and pick up a bag of what looked to be fast-food trash that must have been lying in the street. She held up the trash, smiled and hurried back to the corner. Last I saw her she was walking toward the coffee shop I had just left and putting the trash in a
Granted this was simply an everyday instant of a fellow human doing a good deed. But in a world where so much noise is being made of who deserves what and what is earned and what is given, it is just reaffirming that I come upon a simple selfless act. We have one life, one planet and one species that we are a part of and, like it or not, we are all in this together. So rather than keeping score, we should keep the faith …
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local bookstores or at biff