A youngster hugs his stuffed lamb, a gift given to him by volunteers on a “Santa Train “ that travels through the Appalachian Mountains a week before Thanksgiving.

In general, holidays make me sad, especially Christmas and New Year’s, because they exaggerate the loneliness of those who have lost or are separated from loved ones.

My wife challenges me to “get in touch with the child within” and recall the excite- ment I felt as a youngster during the holidays. But mostly I remember having to be a ghost every Halloween because we couldn’t afford a store-bought costume.

But there is one holiday I embrace: Thanksgiving.

I love Thanksgiving. I love the name, the concept and what it evokes in me. It is a beautiful word, the marriage of two unselfish words that create an even lovelier union.

Like a string around my heart, Thanksgiving doesn’t highlight what I don’t have. Instead, it reminds me how much I do have and how blessed I am.

With Thanksgiving, I don’t feel any societal or commer- cial pressure to purchase gifts. There is little worry the kids are going to bite into apples with razor blades or tainted candy dropped in a sack by some weird neighbor. And there is little religious feud

about how we celebrate or don’t celebrate this holiday. My father never worked on Thanksgiving. It was one of the rare days he didn’t expect us to work, either. We felt like a family on this wonderful day. The seven of us would pack into the car and drive 100 miles south to my grandparents’ house, or sometimes they, along with aunts and uncles, came to our house in the country to celebrate the holiday.

Thanksgiving also connects me in a special way to my mother, who died when I was a senior in high school. Each Thanksgiving, while staying up late to cook the turkey, make potato salad and bake pies, she would make an

extra pie, just for me. While others liked apple, cherry or mincemeat, I loved pumpkin pie. That gesture was better than any Christmas present I ever received, and to this day my eyes water with fond memories when I smell a pumpkin pie baking.

In a world where we are faced with no shortage of evil happenings, it is good for each of us to slow down and consider the many things we are thankful for.

One of the missions my wife—who also is a photographer—and I agree on is dedicating our photographic lives to celebrating the good things in life. There are plenty of others who document the evil, and I am grateful they are willing to risk their lives to shine light on the darkness.

While there are not enough pages in this publication for me to list or share all the things I am thankful for, I will start the parade by saying I am thankful to have been blessed with the gift of seeing, and sharing what I see and feel with both words and pictures. I cannot imagine my life without a camera or a pen.

So this holiday season, why not challenge your eyes and your heart to be filled with the visual aromas of Thanksgiving. See how many “thankful” scenes you can record. Consider the beauty of nature, of family or people helping people.

See how many “thankful” scenes you can find. Maybe you can even make a little book of your pictures and thoughts. You know, it would make a nice gift.

I have friends who say they wished every day was Christmas because people are nicer to each other. For me, I’ll take Thanksgiving.

It is my earnest prayer that my last two words on earth are: “thank you.”