While looking around our Manhattan photo store, my customer marveled, "I love the human landscape in your store, it's beautiful!" The flow of people in our retail photo shop, whether a gentle stream or a raging river, is always remarkable. Yet these big numbers are made up of interesting and unique individuals from all around the world. Yes, everybody has a story. Yes, everyone is interesting if you know how to smile and ask the right questions.

I did not know that my job at our photo store would transport me to China with counter-revolutionary journalists who risk their lives trying to give their people hope; to Antarctica with preservation activists; to exotic locales I have never heard of with in-the-know locals; to ponder the future of education with the president of the New School; to discuss medical research with top specialists; to analyze the human condition with people who survived extreme illness; to talk about art and the photo world with published and award-winning photographers.

If you open up just a little, a conversation about a camera product can take you anywhere without the expense and burden of air travel, or even further, into a stranger's life and heart.

Once, roaming the aisles looking for customers to help, I encountered an elderly lady from Europe. I became her guide. She wanted a simple pouch for her G10, something unstructured. I showed her a Zing neoprene pouch. As she touched it and held it up to her eyes for closer inspection, she exclaimed, "It's fantastic!" She wanted me to show her another one, just to compare, which I did. As she saw the other choice she exclaimed with resonant voice, "No, the other one, the other one is fantastic!"

I show her the color options on my computer screen, she makes her decision, and we wait. The pouch comes; I show her the color to see if she is satisfied - but also to see what word she will use. In an exotic accent laden with emotion, she exclaims again, "Yes, it's fantastic!" I couldn't hold myself back from remarking, with a gentle smile on my face, "It's so refreshing to hear somebody use the word fantastic on a $12 pouch, or anything for that matter. Most people just say it's ok, or it's good, but never have I heard any customer say it's fantastic!"

She smiled, and surprised me with her unexpected answer. "It's how you look at life. If you see life as a gift, you appreciate everything, even a small thing. If not, everything is miserable and gray." Instantly inspired and taken aback, I figured she must be a therapist of some kind who achieved this appreciation after many years of work. I asked her, "Are you a therapist?" She replied, "Thank G‑d, I'm not; therapists and psychologists can cut people up with analysis. I am an artist! I try to add beauty into this world!"

A simple purchase, an inspiring encounter. Her lens offers a view of the world which I wish more people could look through, looking at their life and exclaiming with appreciation about every little thing, "It's fantastic!"

Another European customer who happened to publish photo books told me, "I believe a photograph is not finished until it is shared with others. Then, and only then, is it complete."

Our stories are not complete until shared with others...