Before I die…

Jim Livingston is a creative consultant and managing partner of the I am Rt 66 Visitor Center and Gallery in Amarillo, Texas. He recently posted this amazing piece of art on LinkedIn.

His post included the story of how it was created: “I was doing a time-lapse photo of a windmill at sunset. A hiker walked right in front of my camera ruining my sequence. I knew the hiker didn’t know any better and probably didn’t even realize I was doing a time-lapse but I was upset. That’s like 700 photos ruined.

“When I started looking at the group, I was intrigued by the photo of her. Because of a bunch of technical issues, the photo wasn’t very good but I saw something in it. So, I started layering in other photos (think double exposure) until I came up with this. To date, if I had to pick like my top 20 pieces of art, this is one of those.

“I have read the Chinese character for crisis is the same character for opportunity. Think about that for a second. Here I thought my photo was ruined and I used a lousy technical photo to create one of my all-time favorite pieces of art.”

Jim’s description of how he turned something he thought was bad into something good is a lesson for all of us during the COVID-19 pandemic. He offers this challenge in his post, “Well, here we are America, we are in crisis mode. What are you doing to turn this time into an opportunity? I am trying to turn the crisis into an opportunity for growing and getting better. We can do this America.”

Jim is currently working on a project called I am Rt. 66. It started at the 806 Coffee Shop he frequented on Route 66 in Amarillo. He was intrigued by the diversity of the customers and their conversations. A biker might be talking with a banker and a soccer mom. Jim approached the coffee shop about doing an art show and they agreed. It began with Jim approaching customers with, “I am Jim Livingston.” So, now you know why the project is called I am Rt 66. After the introduction Jim asked if they wanted to participate in his project and instructed those who did to complete three sentences:

  1. I am…
  2. I regret…
  3. Before I die…

They’d write their responses on a plain, white sheet of paper. Jim then photographed them and combined their photo with their handwritten responses into a portrait. The project was featured on a segment of the Texas Country Reporter, a weekly syndicated television program. It was fascinating to watch the participants during their photo sessions with Jim and see their finished portraits with their handwritten responses. He now has completed more than 600 portraits. The subjects are a cross section of society.

Jim’s project made me think of Mitch Albom’s book, Tuesdays with Morrie. It’s the true story of the emotional bond formed between Mitch and Morrie, one of his old college professors who is terminally ill. Morrie teaches Mitch about life while he is in the process of dying. Among the many bits of wisdom Morrie shares, there are a couple all of us should remember:

  • “The fear of aging… you know what that reflects, Mitch? Lives that haven’t found meaning.”
  • “If we accept the fact that we can die at any time we’d live our lives differently.”

Every day we are bombarded with updates of the coronavirus death toll. It’s a reminder that we can die at any time. But we can follow Jim Livingston’s example and turn the crisis into an opportunity for growing and getting better. What better time to consider Jim Livingston’s thought-provoking sentences? It might cause us to live our lives differently — before we die.

Editor’s Note: Learn more about Jim Livingston at and the I Am Rt. 66 project at Click here to watch the Texas Country Reporter segment about the project.

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