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Let Your Light So Shine

By Tammy Hopson

Mitchell CountyTammy Hopson Red Hill Mitchell County


In 2007 an old dusty box sat in an auction house in Chicago, Illinois waiting to be opened. The only thing known about its contents was that it held numerous old negatives and photographs. The box was placed in a blind auction and purchased by the president of the Historical Society of Chicago’s Northwest Side. His name was Mr. John Malloy. After his purchase, he decided that most of the negatives were unusable and so once again the old box was closed and placed in storage. Several years later he pulled it out again. This time he began to scan the negatives one by one into his computer. Soon the beautiful works of Vivian Maier began to display. It became apparent to John that he had purchased the photos of a great photographer. His research of the unknown author had begun. His discoveries led to more boxes of photographs done by this mystery artist. Unfortunately, Vivian had already left this world and there was no indication that she had become a known photographer. Apparently, she had been secretly taking photographs for 50 years and placing all of her work in storage since 1949. Throughout her years on this earth, very few of her photos were made into prints and none of her works were published publicly. However, after a search by Mr. Malloy and two other collectors, it was discovered that she had taken over 150,000 photos and hid all of the undeveloped film away.

Since then, most of her work has been obtained by the collectors and deemed to be of great talent. There now have been many portfolios published and she has become a famous street photographer in the photography world.  Her obvious talent has inspired other photographers, and many have claimed to have learned from her without having heard a word of her instruction and only observing her photos. Vivian Maier’s works went on after her passing and accomplished the very thing that great photographs are intended to do, to inspire, to teach, and to display.

I have a Christian friend who reminds me of Vivian Maier.  No, she isn’t a photographer or any kind of artist. However, her hands are always at work touching lives and inspiring people in the Lord. She isn’t sounding a bell or publishing the things she does, but I have known her a long time and she is always doing something for others. She is modestly out praying, helping, and ministering to hurting people in her own silent and secret way and I am sure that the evidence of her works is being stored up by the number.

I want to be like them both. As a photographic “hobbyist” the story of Vivian Maier intrigues me.  I don’t know why she secretly hid her photography from others, but her photos were done with great skill and are touching enthusiasts and collectors to this day. Of course, I want to reach that same level of expertise in the hobby that I love.

In comparison, my friend is doing just what the Lord has required from all of us when He said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”.  I know my friend’s motive to help others is not to gain notoriety or have her works “published” in any way. Like Vivian, she is too modest for that. I truly feel her heart is to just show people who Jesus is. Although she is doing her works in secret at times, she will be rewarded openly by the God she is serving. Just like Vivian, she is storing up treasures, but her treasures will go before her to heaven. One by one they are going into storage. God will have all of her “boxes” and when it is time, He will open them and go through them all. The beautiful works of my friend will not only be displayed in heaven but remembered for the lives she touched.

For now, I am watching from a distance as my friend continues to inspire me to reach out in love to those around me. I am learning from her as she teaches me without a word and displays the true light of Christ.

I have searched my own heart and considered my own “treasures” and if I too will have things in storage that speak of my good works and the times I have let my light shine to display Jesus to someone else. Am I teaching others to follow God and is my life inspiring someone to know Him?  I have inwardly pictured my own “boxes” and how much I have in “storage” and have concluded that I most likely have some space to fill and that I better get packing because we never know when our box will be called and it is time for God to look inside.


Tammy Hopson has been a Mitchell County resident since 1992 and lives in Red Hill with her family. She is a mother of six children and grandmother of 14. She has been a member of Hoyle Memorial Christian Fellowship in Lawndale, NC since 1992 and helps lead The HMCF Youth Group.

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