Portrait Project


"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Evan Baehr

Despite living in an age of deep connectedness—of social networks, smart phones, and Starbucks—we are often alone. We desire to be known—we yearn for affirmation that we matter.

The irony is that the people around us are extraordinary—yet often unknown. Their stories of failure and triumph, hardship and blessing ought to touch the soul—yet go untold.

I wonder about the people I pass on the street or in the subway. Where are they coming from? Where are they going? At one end of the train, a woman sits quietly reading to a child—what are her tired eyes telling me? At the other end of the train, there is a boy laughing. What does he want to be when he grows up? Perhaps an astronaut.

Their stories are worthy of novels but will not be written. They are worthy of sermons but will not be spoken. They are worthy of reflection but will not be known.

Everywhere I go I see faces and clothing, yet know something deeper lies within. How can I discover these people's stories? How can I be their storyteller? Well, I don't know yet, but at least I can start by asking questions. When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg introduced me to Mark Zuckerberg she said, "Mark—meet Evan. He's the only person I have hired because he asked great questions." Although I wish she had said that I was smart or a great leader, I'll certainly settle for "great question asker."

So let me ask you first, "What's your story?"

As I think about the depth of aloneness around us—that our stories are not known—I remain encouraged. The tragedy—and opportunity—is that all you have to do is ask.

— Evan Baehr