As a photographer you meet many people during your day to day tasks. The mailman, the neighboring store owner, the janitor, and the occasional curious passerby. However, once in a blue moon, you meet a friend. Someone who touches your heart. A person that could only have been sent by God, into your life for a specific purpose. As it happens, I run contests and giveaways quite often. Haley Terry entered a contest to win a free "Trash The Dress" session. With the most votes, she won. I never would have imagined that I would have the honor to photograph such an amazing person with a heartwarming story of love and faith.
Haley grew up in a small town, lived a small town life, and had dreams of raising her children in the same small town. Little did she know, God had different plans.
Haley and her husband Dustin married in June of 2010. Shortly after, they found a love for helping children and began foster parenting classes. Things started to fall into place when Haley got a call about working for the Alabama Baptist Children's Home. They were hired as house parents at the Decatur Campus after praying and asking God which direction they should take in life.
The Alabama Baptist Children's Home Decatur Campus is made up of 4 children's houses and 2 college houses. They can collectively house up to 32 kids at one time. Each house has 2 house parents that work 6 days and have 3 off days that are rotated with 2 relief house parents between two of those houses at a time. During their 6 days at their house they act as the children's parents. Cooking, cleaning, caring for, playing with and loving them just as you would your own children, until they are placed into foster homes or adopted. The kids are placed on campus for an average of 30-60 days with 90 days being the max or can be extended if needed up to 120 days.
During my interview with Haley I asked her several questions to get an idea of the emotional value of her job as a house parent. One question was "How hard is it to move these kids in and out of your lives and not get attached emotionally?". Her answer, "There's a special place in your heart that God gives you. You still love them with all you have, but you know it's temporary." When asked, what she loves most about her job she replied through tears, "This work is God's Heart. I am overwhelmed that I get to work through God everyday to help bring restoration to peoples lives and homes. I hear everyday that WE are such a blessing to these kids, but I see it as THEY are a blessing to us. I've heard a quote that sums it up. God is using these kids to make us who we are supposed to be. It's not all about us making the kids who they are supposed to be."
Haley and Dustin are blessings to those children. Just as much as the children are a blessing to them.
From this moment on, when I begin a mundane task, whether it be editing pictures, scheduling appointments, or even taking out the trash at the end of the day, I wonder... The person I'm passing in the hall, on the other end of the phone line, or my next client... What is their story? Everyone has one. Some are stories of love, triumph, life, faith, or humor. Others of sacrifice, temptation, sadness, loss, heartache, or anger. EVERYONE. HAS. ONE.
I am blessed beyond measure that I get to freeze moments in time. I am blessed beyond measure that I am invited into the homes, lives and families of some of the most amazing people. I am blessed beyond measure that they trust me to capture their memories, and I am blessed beyond measure that they allow me to share their stories.
This is Haley. She is one of the reasons that my faith in humanity is being restored. Selfless acts of kindness to help children have a better future through love that they otherwise may have not had. Thank you Haley and Dustin!