Giving Thanks with LifePath

Last year I was happy to photograph LifePath’s Christmas party; this year I was delighted to take a role in their annual Thanksgiving fundraiser as the official photographer. The event was a ton of fun—everybody was having a great time, I was happy to see a lot of familiar faces from the Lehigh Valley, and I got to meet many new friends.

The highlight of the day, of course, was Bill Walton, the 7-foot-tall keynote speaker. I’ve never seen him play basketball (though I suspect he fortifies his natural talent with an unsurpassed tenacity that made him the star he is) but as a public speaker he was top-shelf. And not just because he’s the only one who could reach the top shelf!

We kicked off the day with a tour of LifePath’s Bethlehem facility, where I got to see some familiar faces.

I would have loved to have spent a lot more time at the facility. I love meeting these beautiful people – some were joyous, others troubled, and others mysterious. But they have such a brilliant range of personalities and stories to tell that it’s difficult to capture everything there is to capture in the whirlwind tour we made.

Still, we had to get to the conference center to begin the speeches!

When Bill took the stand, his height finally sunk in. He towered over the crowd; even the podium was embarrassed to stand next to him!

Mr. Walton is a great speaker; he’s super-charismatic and very clever. The audience was captivated; about five minutes in I was kicking myself for not having set up a voice recorder just so I could take notes! He had so many quotable moments I’m kicking myself for not jotting them down. Such is the photographer’s quandary.

After Bill finished speaking, there was an auction to sell some collectible memorabilia and season tickets and other fun things – the auctioneer was such a character! I’m only going to share this photo, but he was pretty much a hero.

I took, err, plenty of shots of Bill Walton signing things, but this was one of my favorites. Everybody had a wonderful time, and it was a success by all counts. Bill gave us a great presentation, and his sensitivity and optimism were apparent and inspiring.

That’s that for this peek at LifePath’s Thanksgiving event. Keep an eye out for these photos and more in their marketing materials as well as in the Morning Call and elsewhere. For more photos, of course, you can visit my website, shoot me an e-mail, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Happy holidays!

Black Friday Rule

Okay, okay, you knew I couldn’t resist. I’ve got a few things to say about Black Friday.

It’s really easy to be cynical of the whole thing, and sit at home while smugly decrying the insanity of the hordes at dawn. It’s easy to impress ourselves that we would never stoop to those levels—we’re way smarter than that!

It’s especially easy, when you think about what’s going on, to be disgusted by the greed and unthinking clamoring to get in the door first. It’s even easier to be disgusted by the stores who open so early. But really – why do we make such a fuss?

If you don’t like the absurdity of Black Friday, don’t participate. End of discussion. I personally will never scour the ads for the best “bargain” on Black Friday. I will certainly never stand outside a store for hours in November to get a Thing. But that’s my choice, and if somebody else wants to do that, I have no problem with it.

Of course, I do have an enormous problem with the violence, and I wouldn’t hesitate to Do Unto the guy who pepper sprays me in his rush to Acquire. I suspect, though, that mainly people are in a hurry and grumpy but generally peaceable.

This time of year I always see blog posts, editorials, and opinion columns about how insane Black Friday is, and how if we could just fix it, the world would be a better place. Some people recommend punitive taxes as a way to balance out the one-upsmanship of competing stores. Some people sign petitions asking stores to volunteer to keep their doors closed until a reasonable hour. I’m not sure how they determine what constitutes a reasonable hour, but I suppose it’s hard to see how Black Friday sales can begin on Thanksgiving. Some people even Occupy the day.

And hey, who wouldn’t want an organized movement that could protect us from this unbridled assault on our sensibilities? Except maybe some people are forgetting that there’s already a safeguard against it. If you don’t like it, don’t participate. I’m sure I would be singing a different tune if I worked for a store that demanded that I come in to work at 2am to get ready. Then I’d boycott the hell out of Black Friday. But as a consumer, I can choose not to be lured in by the (false) promise of sweet deals.

Thinksgiving

I tweeted a simple economics lesson last night. Actually, by sheer coincidence it happened to be exactly midnight. But it’s a good lesson, so I’m going to repeat myself. Take a few minutes to count your pennies before you go shopping—whether it’s on Black Friday or not. Let’s pick a few numbers wildly at random.

First, let’s assume that you’re in the market for a camera. I would be if I were you, because cameras are neat. You pick the Canon T2i.

Now, let’s assume that you were going to buy one anyway, and you trust Target when they tell you the retail price is $799.

Now let’s assume that that new $649 price tag is irresistible. Do you go for it? Or do you skip it and wait for later?

Put a price tag on your time. Assuming you were going to buy that exact camera for $799 anyway, and you stand to save a cool $150, is it worth it? What is your time worth, per hour? What is your comfort worth? Do you have anything better to do at 3am than stand outside with 6,000 of your closest friends? If the cost of your time and convenience exceeds the savings you’re racing for, it’s probably best to stay home. Otherwise, go crazy.

It’s clear to me that it wouldn’t be worth it—for me. But trying to regulate behavior just because I don’t like it for myself is a little…unamerican.

Still, I think the Occupiers are on to something. Or at least, the grungy hippy in me would like to think that they are. They may not be organized all that well, and they may not convince a soul to stay home on Black Friday, but they’re right to try to educate people and start a conversation. It’s a very complex conversation we should be having right now; one that can’t be simplified with stunts like petitions and taxes.

I think everybody is having a different conversation, though. Occupiers seem to think that the wealthy are at fault. The wealthy seem to think the government is at fault. The government seems to think it’s The Other Party’s fault. The sad fact is, though, everybody’s a little bit at fault. And we’re at a point where it’s going to be extremely difficult to start mending the holes.

That’s why I like Occupy. Sure, they may not be doing a whole lot, and I suspect there’s an average of six photographers and journalists for ever active protester. But they’ve got people talking. And it seems like the talking is a lot more high-minded than the knee-jerk denialism and debunking of, say, climate change.

I dunno where I’m going with this. I’ve just started to ramble again, so I’m going to cut it short and leave it to you to continue the discussion. What do you think about Occupy? Black Friday? Did you get any killer deals? Tell me in the comments! Flame me on Twitter! Punch me in the Facebook!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

So, I started this post yesterday as a kind of catchall bin for some thoughts about Thanksgiving and Black Friday. I started rambling, got distracted by suspicious pie-shaped aromas emanating from the kitchen, forgot what I wanted to say, and then decided to save it for the morning.

It’s morning, now, and I still don’t remember what I was going to say. I was going to talk about Turkey Day, and how I wish people would stop calling it that. I really don’t like the casual admittance that our society has such plentiful resources that we expect a feast so enormous it will incapacitate us. I don’t like the air of glib consumerism that Turkey Day evokes, as though the day of Thanksgiving has been relegated to nothing more than a warm-up for a frenzied scramble to Acquire.

But then I realized that all that just sounds like grumbling and moaning, and that’s really the opposite of what I want to feel on Thanksgiving. If you’ve been following me since my somewhat rocky debut on Blogger last year,* I’ve put you through a lot of grumbling and moaning. I didn’t really blog much about what was going on in my life, but I wanted to take a moment to thank you for reading along with me anyway. You get extra credit for following along, because it’s pretty obvious that this blog has been chaotic, if nothing else. I’ve tried running regular themes, but we’ve seen how long those have lasted; it turns out, I write whatever I want!

*If you’ve been following me since my short-lived blogs on Xanga, Deadjournal, and Myspace, you get ten bonus points for each one!

I really like Thanksgiving. I like all holidays, really, but I have a special fondness for a day dedicated to gratitude. I like it because it’s a secular holiday. It’s open to people of every belief system. Certainly, for many, gratitude entails thanking a god for the gifts it has bestowed upon us. For the rest of us, it means spending the day telling our friends and loved ones how much we appreciate that they are in our lives, and acknowledging how much of our success has been made possible –directly or indirectly – by their support.

I truly believe that we should live a life of gratitude. If nothing else, it’ll brighten your day. When you’re thankful for what you have, you treat the world and its people better. But no matter who we are or what we believe in, our gratitude stems from a tacit understanding that what we’re thankful for are things that everybody doesn’t have.

That can be a tough, solemn nut to swallow, but a day of wanton festivities is a wasted day if we don’t allow ourselves a moment of repose to get serious and think about how amazing our lives are. Living a life of gratitude is an all-year process; it can’t be constrained to a single day. Still, heaven knows it’s easy to get bogged down by a year’s worth of toils; most likely you’re not thrilled to go in to work every day, and I bet you don’t make as much money as you’d like. Maybe you don’t even have a job, and the hunt gets depressing after the months start to stack up.

Thanksgiving is a great time to refresh, to think about the things we do have. Think about all the things you have that your life would be worse without.

I am thankful for all the people in my life who have been with me every step of the way. I am thankful for the people I see every day, and for the people I only see once a year. I’m thankful for the people in my house, the people across the Lehigh Valley, and the people across the country. I’m thankful for the people who are with me, and I am thankful to have known the people who have moved on. I am thankful for the people across the world who pursue their passions and, so doing, make the world better. I am thankful for my countrymen, even though we’ll never all agree on anything. Maybe because we’ll never agree on anything.

Yep, I’m thankful. I was thankful yesterday, on Thanksgiving, I’m thankful today, on Black Friday, and I’ll be thankful for the next 364 days until next Thanksgiving.

Happy holidays to you all!