Thursday, January 01, 2009

WELCOME 2009!

Well, it's been an interesting year for sure. I've heard many say "good riddens" to 2008, and to some extent, I must agree. However, 2008 brought many changes to my life for which I am grateful. Kelly and I start out the new year in our new home. This change is part of a larger plan for early retirement. We've seen our granddaughter reach four-years old, our daughter join the college crowd and our son join a rock band. The latter I am still working through, but with medication I just might come around.

As I sit here on New Years morning, I opened up my photo files from 2008 and glanced through the thousands of images captured in the past 365 days. Images from places like El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, the Grand Canyon, Parks and Jerome in Arizona, Northern California and Oregon. Holidays, weddings, birthdays, and studio sessions. Walks along beaches and hikes on the trails. Photos of family and friends, strangers and landmarks, they just go on and on. So, I asked myself, if I could pick just one image out of the thousands to be my favorite of the year, which image would that be. So here it is. I call this image, "My Inspiration."

Why, you might ask, did I not pick one of the beautiful people I photographed in the studio, or maybe one of the majestic landscapes from my travels, or a family event with those closest to me. The reason is change. This image sums up for me the change in my life that I experienced in 2008. It was during my trip to Central America that I came to realize how truly blessed I am. This little Salvadorian boy spoke volumes to my heart with just his smile. He has no toys or fancy clothing. My gosh, he doesn't even have matching shoes, but what he does have is joy. His world has not been tainted with material things. I don't know for sure, but I like to believe he is joyous because he has all that he needs - family. He loved tagging along as we explored the hills near his home. He was proud to be one of our guides, and oh how happy it made him to receive 25 cents for his efforts. He was not worried about the economy, bailouts, foreclosures or who the next president would be. Astronomical gasoline prices and plummeting home values did not keep him up at night. What to wear to school, will I look cool, or I need that latest Xbox game did not stress him out. It was at that moment in 2008 that I realized it was time to reevaluate my priorities.

Did this experience change me completely, unfortunately not. I still occasionally stop for that $3.25 Starbucks coffee, but now I feel a little guilty when I do, and that is a good thing. I know that the cost of that cup of coffee is a whole weeks wages for this little boy's family. I'm realistic though and realize I'm not going to change the world by skipping an occasional gourmet coffee, but it does inspire me to do whatever I can to make a difference. My goal, "to leave it better." To leave what better you may ask. Everything! Whether it is leaving a room, a store, a job, a friend, or even this life, leave it better. To say "thank you" or "God bless you" more often to total strangers.

Kelly and I wish you a peaceful, prosperous and joyous New Year!!!

Gary