The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


December 11, 2007

A picture of hunger

I received an early Christmas present this year, an awakening of sorts about the true meaning of Christmas and love.

My wife and I have been doing what everyone else is — racing around putting up Christmas lights, buying gifts and attending holiday parties. One Friday evening we attended a Toys for Tots party at a neighbor's house. We brought our required toy and entered into the abundance of people, food, drink and conversation. Before the end of the evening, the seven-ton, camouflaged U.S. Marines truck was bursting at the seams with toys. I'm sure all the partygoers felt it was a job well done.


On Saturday morning I drove to Belvedere, Ill., to photograph Judy and Abigail Garrison for an article on hunger for The Lutheran's February issue. Judy is a single mom who has degenerative disc disease. She had to quit her job and is fighting the battles of getting public aid and Social Security benefits. It's a vicious ongoing cycle of being turned down by one agency (Social Security) and then trying to convince the others that she is, indeed, in need of help. Meanwhile, Judy has to provide for her daughter, Abigail, when her body won't even allow her to do everyday tasks — let alone work.

I arrive at their home and am the stranger invited in to take photographs and talk about what they wish they didn't have to discuss. Before I pull out my camera gear, the three of us get to know one another. Abigail is an amazing 11-year-old. She does the housecleaning, a lot of the cooking, much of the shopping and helps take care of her mom any way she can — out of love for her mother. She has been forced to grow up at a much-too-early age. With all of this, she's still an honor-roll student.

I tell Abigail why I'm taking the pictures. Then her mother explains why she is telling their story and why she is asking for any help she can get: She loves her daughter. Tears start to flow and mother and daughter hold on to each other tightly. We continue to talk as I take photos. Unlike Friday night's party, here — in reality — there isn't an abundance of food or drink or people who will help. What do you do when you run out of toilet paper and can't afford to buy any? Or your daughter cuts her finger, but you can't afford Band-Aids? What do you do when there isn't any food left in the cabinets?

Before our morning was done, I took Abigail to the grocery store to buy enough supplies to last them until their next round of food stamps. The warm "thank you" and hug from this bright-eyed little girl was the best Christmas present I've ever received. It wasn't because of some toy or other artificial object that I might have brought. It was because for at least a few nights this week, Abigail and her mother don't have to worry if there is enough food in their cabinets.

This Christmas remember those who are less fortunate, whether it is Judy and Abigail or someone you know in your neighborhood. It could end up being your best Christmas present.

Merry Christmas.

To help: If you're moved to help Judy and Abigail, please e-mail me. And remember, there are many like the Garrisons in any given community. I urge you to help those in your own community this Christmas, and throughout the year.

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September 24, 2006

A different time and place

My wife and I took our son back to Eastern Illinois University for his second year of college. We had tacked on an extra day to our weekend so we could explore the area a little more. There is a decent sized Amish community down there and my wife likes to explore their furniture shops. Since it was Sunday, all of the shops were closed so we decided to check out a place known for its flower and rock gardens.

Stuck in the middle of corn fields was an old residence that had grown extra buildings over the years that were now various shops and a restaurant. They happened to be having a Blue Grass music festival this particular weekend so my wife and I decided to partake in the happenings.

Now, living in the Chicago area, there is always a constant form of noise and activity going on. As we sat listening to the Blue Grass being played the only other noise being made was from the "clip, clop" of the Amish buggies going down the road as they returned from their Sunday church service. It felt like we were in another place and time and it felt good.

I think this photo reflects that feeling of "another place and time" with the old single pane glass window, the old lace curtain and the old Amish buggy in the background.

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September 3, 2006

End of summer

Parents love it and the kids hate it. The end of summer. This photo was one of the last summer outings for our grandson RJ and his three cousins.

Like Tom Sawyer the boys have a sense of freedom that is rapidly winding down towards the end of these tracks.

School starts and with it comes structure and responsibility. The nights get longer, the days get shorter and our kids keep losing some of that freedom at the end of each summer.

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July 8, 2006

America's favorite pastime

Baseball, the American pastime. Well maybe for a lot of Americans but it never really was for me, that is until my grandson started playing T-ball. You can have the Major Leagues, I’ll take the local park district T-ball leagues any day.

To watch those little guys and gals try to figure out how to make their arms communicate with their legs and catch or throw a ball to boot is pure entertainment.

Then to see the thrill on their faces when the miracle actually happens and the ball really does stay in their glove. You can’t help but smile and get excited for them. Welcome to summer and my kind of baseball.












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June 24, 2006

Wedding season

June not only brings warmer weather and flowers but also the wedding season. I am photographing more and more weddings each year. Weddings are a lot of work, that’s a fact. There is all of the pre-wedding prep, the actual photography of the wedding day and then all of the computer work afterwards for us digital shooters. So why do it? I can only tell you what makes it worth it to me. The above image shows the bride of the day being helped by her attendants, family and friends. All of them helping with the careful assembly of make-up, gown and veil to make her as beautiful as she can be for her wedding day. Her reward was to have her groom brought to tears at the first sight of his bride. To see and visually capture a couple truly in love, that is what helps make it worth it to me.

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April 28, 2006

Can you see the Spirit?

About once a month, instead of doing a normal blog, you will be seeing a photograph that I have taken. With the photo will be a brief discription of what is going on in the image and why the photo has some importance to me.

This month’s image was taken at Twin Lakes Wisconsin. It is a lake that my wife, grandson and I like to take our boat to for a little fishing. This particular day we were stopping in to see if the docks had been put into the lake for the upcoming fishing season. Never to miss a chance to fish, my grandson decided to try his luck off the dock. While standing there the sun broke through the clouds and my grandson exclaimed,”look, you can see the Spirit. God is in the middle of the Spirit and God is trying to come alive!” Not bad theology for a six year old.

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