Joe Pisani (opinion): Camera captures the person we have potential to be

This artwork by M. Ryder refers to wishes for a peaceful Christmas.

This artwork by M. Ryder refers to wishes for a peaceful Christmas.

M. Ryder

Every morning when I wake up, my iPad has a new slide show of photos for me to watch. They’re right beside the weather app and the calendar of events, and all I have to do is click on them.

I didn’t ask for them, yet somebody at Apple must have said, “We’re going to do this even if you don’t want it.”

So there it is. Photos of family and friends for my viewing pleasure. Photos from different years of different people doing different things.

Today I woke up to pictures of my daughter and son-in-law, laughing together shortly after they were married six years ago — the same daughter and son-in-law I was recently arguing with over politics. I prefer them laughing. After all, Christmas is coming.

I scrolled to the next photo and came upon another daughter — the one I have difficulty being in the same room with for more than 10 minutes without arguing. I guess we have a lot in common.

In this photo, taken 14 years ago, she’s standing on top of a mountain, smiling at the camera and exultant over her achievement. That autumn day, we hiked to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain when the leaves were beginning to change. It was one of the few times in recent years that we did something together ... and she’s smiling. I look at that picture and remember the good times.

In the next photo, my wife Sandy is holding our newborn granddaughter Lennox, who’s not smiling. She’s crying. She was too young to understand the etiquette of family photography. Besides, nobody wants to smile when they have a poopy diaper.

However, in the next photo, taken three year later, she IS smiling. She’s holding her arms up triumphantly like Muhammad Ali after he clocked Sonny Liston. And she’s wearing a purple tee shirt that says, “The future is female.”

Then, there’s a picture of my newborn grandson Mason, sleeping peacefully in a baby carrier, content to let the world pass by. Enjoy it, kid, because you’ll never have a peaceful night’s sleep as an adult.

There was also a picture of my daughters on a snowy evening in New Hampshire, having a grand old time, sledding down a hill in front of the house. I never understood how they could have had so much fun together without quarreling ... until that spring, after the snow melted, when I discovered the empty bottles of Sam Adams under the evergreen tree. Oh well.

As Christmas approaches, I love to look at photos of family and friends because they give me a reason to be thankful. Photos often capture people at their best. (Except for those narcissistic selfies.)

I like to think those smiling faces reveal what we’re really like ... and what we should be like. They remind me of the inherent good in people, even when they don’t realize it themselves. In my photos, no one is arguing, complaining or angry. They’re joyful, gracious and caring. The way people should be.

The beauty of Christmas is that it brings out the good in us, just like those pictures, which evoke fond memories and remind me that life is worth living and people are fundamentally good.

That’s who we truly are on the inside, at least until the trials, the disputes, the selfishness and the self-interest encrust our souls. Sometimes, we forget we’re meant to be kind, caring and compassionate people, but Christmas reminds us.

That photo of my infant grandson, smiling in his sleep, peaceful and content and safe, is who he was meant to be and who he can be, despite the challenges and suffering in life.

Even the most disagreeable people got that way for a reason. Their parents may have contributed to hang-ups, they may have gotten picked on because they were different or couldn’t do what the other kids could. They may have been abused, had an alcoholic parent, or never been told they were loved. So instead of feeling loved, they felt rejected.

Think of those possibilities the next time someone annoys or angers you. And try to think of them smiling at the camera, and you’ll see the person they were meant to be and still can be.

Christmas helps us remember to look for the good in everyone. It’s there to find.

Former Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time Editor Joe Pisani can be reached at