HELLO fellow photographers and creatives,

My name is KELLI TRONTEL and I was fortunate and honored to be part of the Help-Portrait trial run in Nashville, TN back in 2009.

There’s no mistaking that being exposed to the heart of Help-Portrait will rock your world….but recently, I’ve realized more and more how much Help-Portrait deeply impacted my life. Help-Portrait gave me the permission and the guts to approach strangers, to pursue people outside of my “circle”….to look at hurting and broken people in the eyes and use that opportunity to speak life and encouragement over them. Photography was the vehicle that helped me tap into that voice that I never thought I had, but Help-Portrait unveiled to me a way that I can tangibly connect with people…with my camera, but even more so with my words.

As we quickly approach Help-Portrait 2014, I wanted to share with you an opportunity I recently had in my own hometown

[which is now Montana]. An opportunity that I pursued. An opportunity that I knew I would forever regret if I allowed it pass me by.

I noticed a man sitting outside of our church last month–on the same bench–week after week. I finally walked up to him, introduced myself and conversation grew effortlessly. His name is Al. And he’s awesome. His laugh is infectious and his love for people and Jesus is so inspiring. I walked away thinking he is the epitome of “Even though……I will” Whatever those dots represent between those words [I have no money, Lost my job, Living on the streets]….I will get back up.

It’s no secret, Montana gets COLD in the winter…..so people on the streets tend to think of warmer climates, and that’s exactly what Al was up to…..he had recently purchased a bus ticket that will be taking him to Kansas City and then ultimately to St. Augustine, FL. BY the time you read this, he will have already boarded his bus out of town.

When I met Al, we were in a series at church called “Hug It Out”…..and after our initial conversation on that bench, he asked for a hug goodbye by saying “let’s hug it out.” Of course I gave him a hug…and we both laughed.

I knew I wanted to give Al some amount of money to help him on his travels, but it was obvious to me that Al wasn’t just about the money. He’s a people person. He mentioned that my hug was the first hug he’d been given in months! So, money wasn’t all I had in my possession to give. There was more……and something we all have……Al appreciated time and he greatly values it.

In 2010, my dad unexpectedly passed away, and the message and legacy that my dad left on my life is all about TIME. My dad made time for me. He made time for strangers. He helped people out. He helped the down and out. He was very aware of those around him.

So…it just so happened to be on my dad’s birthday….that I spent the morning with Al. We met for breakfast and then headed to the barber shop for a haircut and shave.

You know what I’m talking about when you see “the look” at a Help-Portrait event when the moment clicks…and the person you are photographing is accepting and at times overwhelmed by the love they are feeling and is soaking it in. I saw this in Al’s eyes. The hair cut was done, his face was smooth and the cape had been removed. The pampering, the touch, the attention…..it had come to a close. It’s time to go back into the wild wild world we live in.

Al is writing a book….a book of his life, his story, his travels. He shared a bit of it with me. He showed me his street setup–what all he carries around in his roller pack, how his most precious and treasured items are carefully wrapped in plastic, inside paper bags.

He shared his fears…..anxious thoughts that plague him, which most recently included whether or not I would even show up for breakfast or if he would be stood up. Obsessing over how people will react to him in public places, including the Church he attended and the breakfast joint we ate in. Sounds a lot like what you and I may be anxious about from time to time. Conversations like this bridged the differences we may have in this season of life….and boiled it all down to sheer fact that we are all human beings and more similar than we may think, once the veils are pulled away.

Before it was time to say our goodbyes, I asked him to tell me what he would tell the world if he had a microphone loud enough for all to hear….and this is what he said:

“Don’t walk by like we have cancer, or we have the plague or leprosy. Find out where we came from before you judge us. It’s okay if you give us a dollar, but when people take the time, it’s worth so much more. People don’t take the time these days. They just don’t have the time. We are all from somewhere…we have all been places. We may have things that prevent us from keeping a job or prevent us from being a part of society. Just take the time…five minutes or ten minutes you sit there and watch tv or play with your gadgets, but you see someone on the side of the road holding up their sign and you don’t even take a moment to talk to them.”

And this was pretty amazing too:

“I have to remind myself that I am a mighty warrior because sometimes I feel like I am not enough. I feel like I need to have more to do more, but those are lies from the enemy. I can still make a difference in this world. I’m a warrior.”


My son also joined me on the day I spent with Al. I want my son to see more of this in my/his life. I want him to learn from a young age that time and attention are things we all have in our possession to give, it’s how we choose to spend them that matters. I believe the lessons in life worth fighting for are to be taught by example. Words alone don’t work, especially in this case.

Sometimes we face opposition and misunderstanding when doing good. Do it anyway.

Some people get so focused on good works being done without anyone knowing about it [and for the most part, I agree], but I also believe there is great power in sharing our stories and our experiences, especially when inspiration and courage rises up and leads to action.

Help-Portrait is so much more than a one-day event, it’s a lifestyle.

So, my day with Al kinda felt like my own little Help-Portrait. I got my guts back again and for that I am so thankful.…because LOVE WRITES A BEAUTIFUL STORY….and I don’t ever want to miss out on that!

Be encouraged. Be inspired. Be brave. Be love.