Nathan Vass was the first photographer to join the Seattle Shines Project. He jumped on board when I had this idea that I wasn’t sure how to accomplish. I also wasn’t sure about the name. He’s been an encouraging project partner thought our lives have been very different.
Last year, he was in Paris during the November attacks. His welfare was unknown for a couple of days, and I realized that when he did come back, it was time to make the Seattle Shines project move forward. We had both been super busy in 2015 with our own personal lives and projects and this sat silently online.
We met up to catch up and share with you why he chose to help, why he volunteers and why he’s on board to help it move forward…
At University Heights in the courtyard, there used to be engraving on the concrete with a quote, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” I always thought that was a good articulation of volunteering.
I’ve also had a series of incidents, one is the Paris thing where I’m just miraculously still alive and thrilled about it and very thankful. The other is the turning 30 thing. It impresses a sense of urgency. Similar to turning 25, but more so. There is just not that much time. The time that is there is extremely valuable. It makes me more conscious of what I do with it, and how I use that time.
Why do you want to be a part of this project?
It’s extremely satisfying to be a part of something I believe in.
A friend of mine described that her arms reach this wide, and within that reach is where she can affect change. She can cause positive things to happen within her reach between the people she knows, and that will have a ripple effect.
I was at a play once at a small theater in the central district. The subject was treatment of women on college campuses. And, afterwards there was a Q&A with the playwright/director. Someone asked, “Okay, all of us here are probably left-leaning liberals who believe in women’s rights strongly. So, we naturally agree with the points of this play. However, how would you communicate this information to people who do not? How would you get this across in a way to affect change without preaching to the choir?”
The playwright was silent for a long time, and he finally said, “The question you want to ask is, “How do you change the world?” The answer is that you don’t. You change the person next to you, and then that person does something else. That’s how you change the world, by being yourself without trying to change the person next to you, but by proactively engaging in the things you believe in and participating in things that you think will make a difference. That is what you can do – that is within our reach.”
There’s a gentleman by the name of Rex Hohlbein who is an architect. He used to have a firm in Fremont, and every morning when he would go to work, there were they two guys who were sleeping in the doorway. He’d say hello to them every morning. Then, as time went on, he got to know these guys a little bit more every day. One day he was sitting in his office, and he had an epiphany about the fact the he liked talking to the homeless men more than his million-dollar clients. So, he started this non-profit called, “Just say hello.”
He encourages you to do something as simple as making eye contact, and saying hello. He describes that there is a spectrum of things you can do to contribute like saying hi or building a gigantic high-rise to house low-income housing. There isn’t a value difference on that spectrum. Just saying hi to someone can make them feel like a human being for 30 seconds, and that is just as valuable. I really believe that. He was talking about why that is, when you say hello you acknowledge them, and if you keep doing that you’re going to realize that they are very similar to you. The difference is the set of circumstances you both have. I think that contributing to projects like this can help us see we have so much more in common than we don’t.
The great change that needs to happen here is a psychological change. It’s a comprehension that we’re all largely the same. Once we realize that, once we can take care of each other, and make decisions that help our selves and others, that’s when great change can happen more easily. That’s my enormous answer for why I’m excited to be a part of this project.