Starting the turn.
Sometimes, our social media feeds feed our minds and nourish our souls. I believe this happens exactly at the right cosmic moment. Otherwise, we lazily scroll, tap open and tap out - too soon to let the message sink in. But there are those special times when a post gets through and hits you right at home - your heart.
Traveling from Chicago to Ann Arbor late this summer, I came across the Shirley Bachelder story on my Twitter feed. Shirley, a 94-year-old resident of The Manor at Steeplechase in Franklin, Tennessee had a bucket list she was working through. She had recently flown the Tennessee skies in a hot air balloon.
Her own television commercial. With a storyboard already drawn up, hers would be a low budget mere :05 second spot: black screen, reverse type, three simple words, all lower case.
Shirley’s bucket list was made public when she shared it with her Sunday School class at Christ United Methodist Church. From there, word got to WSMV-Channel 4 in Franklin. Reporter, Terry Bulger, featured a day in the life of the 94-year spitfire/artist/writer/game show host. In the end, the station granted her wish by airing her :05 second commercial. I watched, and while I was happy she was able to cross the spot off her list – something felt unfinished.
Traveling down 94, I began a Google search to find Shirley Bachelder. I was able to contact The Manor at Steeplechase and left a message for their marketing director, Ashley Walker. I called my daughter Aidan who works as a PA in LA. “Aidan,” I said, “I think I have a project for us.”
Ashley Walker called me back the following week and I shared my vision of coming to Franklin. I would shoot, my daughter would film. In the end, we would produce a full-blown print and video campaign. We would set our goals on prime-time airtime, major market billboards, buses, stadium jumbotrons, Times Square, the Super Bowl!
Shirley’s message would become a part of pop culture- similar to Just do it and Don’t Worry – Be Happy. Her legacy would forever be connected to her three simple words.
love one another.
love one another.
Think about it.
Stop for a moment.
Put your smart phone down and consider it. How simple, yet how life altering those words would be – if we actually did it; if we lived those words and practiced those words. By simply loving one another, we would wipe out prejudice, murder, rape, abuse, indifference. We would be less selfish, more considerate. We might care.
After a series of phone calls, emails and texts, first with Shirley and the rest with her daughter Aleta Matthews, Aidan flew in from LA. We loaded up our gear and set off for Franklin. Aleta’s last text read, “Stay with us, it’ll be fun.” We did and it was. Over Chinese take-out and cabernet we talked way past their normal bedtime. Aleta’s daughter Heather lives right down the street and she joined us early on. Together, they shared stories about the magic of being raised by Shirley Bachelder. At one point, Heather casually mentioned that she was a fellow photographer and quickly I offered up my spot. A decade ago, I had the honor of photographing my own grandmother in a series profile documenting her last months with us. Those images mean the world to me and in many ways connect us. The idea of Heather having that same experience felt good and felt right.
The next morning, Aidan and I scouted the facility for the best light, the least amount of noise. Settling on the chapel room, we set up, ran a few tests and set out to find Shirley. With white slacks, a white blouse and pink flowers in her hair, we found her across the hall. She was out looking for us!
Aleta had told us about the flowers the night before. On her 80th birthday, Shirley wore the floral crown and someone told her she looked pretty. Well, that felt so good- why not wear it every day? And she has since.
Shirley brought us to her apartment, which was remnant of any New York City artist studio. Heather had converted the closet into a craft center that could rival Pearl. The walls of the apartment were covered with Shirley’s own oil paintings and watercolors. Her manuscript sat neatly on the desk, her doodle coloring book lie open on her chair— mid-doodle. Her space was like her mind, busy with the excitement of creation. There couldn’t be enough time in the day to get to it all.
After tour and conversation, we made our way back to the chapel where Heather was waiting for us with her 5 year old son, Wyatt. We decided to shoot the stills first to free Heather up in case Wyatt got restless. Heather fired away as Shirley talked away. Aidan and I had all kinds of questions for Shirley and we started at the beginning – her childhood. When it was clear that Heather got the shot we were looking for, we stopped to ooh and aah over it. It was right there and we knew it. Heather stayed for the interview and Wyatt never made a sound. 57 minutes of video later, we all knew something special had happened in the chapel room at Steeplechase.
Shirley’s three simple words grew to encompass priceless tales of faith, of letting people in and recognizing when they need to know they are loved. Although, Shirley won’t take credit for any of it.
Her inspiration, she admits, comes from God. She considers herself a willing messenger. Willing to hear his words and carry out his instruction. Shirley clarifies that her message is for everyone, “I don’t care what religion they are or what denomination. I think that loving one another is the primary focus of God’s word.”
Her simple, tiny gestures are all designed to start the turn. Start the turn. It was a line that Shirley used in the middle of one of her stories. Back when she lived in Massachusetts, she met a young boy who was very angry after his parents’ divorce. Each week, Shirley took him out for ice cream. He would talk and she would listen. When he would swear, she would help him find a proper word to fit in its place. When he made up tales, she let him. Many years later she wondered how he grew up to be and learned that he was a deacon. With that Shirley said to us, “I don’t know if I was the reason, but I’d like to think I started the turn.” After she said it, we stopped the interview to talk about it. How her term suggests that you don’t have to commit to big, monumental change, that you can do something very small to start the turn – even go for ice cream. We liked it and so did Shirley.
With that, our mission was defined. Shirley’s message to love one another would inspire others to do something small to start the turn.
“I think that people who have learned to love do so in giving and in doing and in telling. There’s some people that need to be told that they are loved and it is up to you to tell them.” Shirley Bachelder
To be most effective the campaign would be sponsored by everday people. People of all race, religion, sex or national origin. People who believe that good will come from her message. People who still believe that kindness can go a long way. The more Shirley's spot airs, the faster the billboards pop up across the nation, the clearer we are that we are all tired of the hate and the hurt resonating through all cultures.
Whether you donate one dollar or many, Shirley’s message will become your message. You will know it is being shared because of you and Shirley will know that she did her job and started the turn.
To help purchase air-time and print space visit https://www.gofundme.com/Love_One_Another
With all print and video production gifted by Aidan and Cynthia Zordich, all proceeds will be used for love one another media purchasing and placement. The page is owned and controlled by Aleta Matthews on behalf of Shirley Bachelder.