Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Adoption

 In journalism school they teach, among many things, that an event, by definition, is not annual until it happens a second time. There is no such thing as "first annual". Based on individual experiences, I think my Arizona family’s adopting of a refugee family will become annual.
The Welcome to America Project (, is an organization you may be familiar with through my blogs as one of my pro-bono clients.
I like what they do. It dovetails nicely with some the overseas work that I am involved in from time-to-time and so I chose to contribute the best way I can, through professional my services.

They deliver furniture and household items to three refugee families most Saturdays through the year. During the holidays, they enlist a small army of volunteers to share spirit of giving with as many families as possible in one day. This year WTAP was able to provide for 60 refugee families in Phoenix and create some moving and life-influencing experiences for the givers as well as the receivers.

I decided not only to do the usual shooting that I do, but to pitch the idea to my own family of siblings, children and parents. They immediately jumped in with both feet, looking forward to the opportunity to help out, adopting a family of nine from Somalia.

After much organizing among the families within my family, we caravaned to the apartment of our Somali family to lend a hand and help them feel more welcome in their new home.

On this day I also remained a witness, documenting the event for WTAP as a sister-in-law handed out gifts to the children and Dad showed to off the daughters how to use the electric griddle.

"Do you like pancakes," he asked the ten-year-old daughter who sounded fluent in English. "Yah!" our translator answered excitedly. 

One of the boys immediately took the the new soccer ball while another was elated with an eight-inch tall Buzz Lightyear figure. 

Several side conversations developed as one sister chatted with the eldest daughter about how she was settling in and about her traditional clothing, and a nephew demonstrated the working parts of Buzz and Dad explained, to a wide-eyed daughter, how many pieced made up her new puzzle.

After perhaps half of the gifts of fun and of necessity were distributed, as if by telepathic agreement, we realized that their dad, who had work that day, was missing out on the moment. I think as a group we became concerned that the family might feel obligated to open all that we had delivered. One of my sisters spoke up, "do you want to wait for your dad to get home to finish?" 

Their mom said she thought that was a good idea. 
The mom and children expressed their thanks and as we drifted, one by one out the door, we thanked them for allowing us into their home and allowing us the priviledge of lending a hand.

In the days that followed the feedback from family was about the same, the warmth of the Somali family, the friendliness of the children and the beauty the interaction of the two cultures and the confirmation that perhaps this rich experience needed to become an annual event for our family.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Flash takes one for the team.

Okay, so it was a last minute creation in the last few days before the big holiday that send me from store to store looking for the best size of Christmas lights that would fit with their accompanying wires into the partially-gutted shell of a Nikon SB24 flash.

It was a faithful servant up until perhaps 2001 and probably has lied dormant since then, outpaced by three or four newer generations of Nikon hardware. And yet, I hesitated before cutting the wires to remove the flash-head guts, forever turning a formerly faithful servant into a prop.

And, in case you're wondering, fire can be persnickety when you're trying for an even flame with raw firewood. The extra key, besides the usual fireplace tools, the well weathered, never-been-used, new yellow pages, tossed into the fire a couple pages at a time into the appropriate locations to turn lopsided burning into the warm and comfortable evenness that I hope has warmed you during a week that has been pretty cold all over the country.

Happy New Year to my treasured friends, followers clients and fellow travelers.