How long do we have to be in a foreign country before we have earned the right to take a picture with a smiling native child? How much volunteer work do we have to do before we can hug a foreign national and then have them smile at the camera with us as we capture the moment? A day? A week? A month? A year? Two years?

I have been in a lot of pictures with people over the years including people I know well and not so well. I don't turn away from the camera if others take my picture, I don't untag myself from Facebook photos, and I don't stop a smile from coming when someone flashes their camera at me. I try to be sincere. But when I take the pictures myself, I try to be careful and take what they convey seriously.

Helping other people and truly caring about other people is not something I believe happens quickly or easily. I think it's about truly trying to understand the struggles of others, listening to them in their native language, wrapping one's mind around their situation, asking them what kind of help they need, collecting resources to help people help themselves, teaching them how to help others and lead others and then leaving them in a position so that you put yourself out of a job. If they can do it on their own (whatever it may be) and if they finish knowing they did it themselves, that to me is success.

I plan to take plenty of pictures when I am in the Peace Corps - of the foreign land I live in for two years, of the foreign nationals I live with, of beauty and of substance. I will take pictures of people I meet and friends I make, but this will take time. It won't happen in a day, a month, or maybe even a year in some cases. I believe friendships and lasting change require a lot of continued effort, not a vacation-style go around. I hope to take pictures of real value, of lands I admire, of situations that I appreciate and of human beings that I care for and have treated as my equals. Taking a picture of anything less than that is exploitation.