As we reach the end of this incredibly frustrating and problematic year, I was reflecting on our past 15+ years in business. In many ways, our little photography business is not “normal.” Our focus has not been on maximizing profits even though that is a generally-advised good business strategy. Instead, our business has been focused on serving the community, yes through striving for excellence in my photography and teaching, but also through simply trying to make our community a better place.
I just wanted to celebrate that decision to not be normal. We have helped so many local and national nonprofit organizations and other groups that are doing good things, and as I look over the list, I smile because the work we did made a difference, because we supported (and/or helped promote) others who are making a difference. Groups such as:
- We Are Not Broken
- Deaf Dreams
- Girl Scouts of the USA
- Darius Pettway Youth Leadership Conference
- Progeria Research Foundation
- Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure
- Weekend of HOPE – Benefiting Austin SafePlace
- Beyond the Lights Celebrity Golf Classic 2010 hosted by the Austin Community Foundation
- PMDA Portraits of Love Program
- Kidsave International and Kidsave Austin
- Foundation for the Homeless, Inc.
- Interfaith Hospitality Network
- Fort Hood Earth Fest 2009
- Creation Celebration 2009
- Bass School of Music
- United America Pageant
- Oklahoma City University
- Bethany House of Friends
- The National Arts Program
- VSA Arts of Texas
- Bikes for Goodness Sake
- Mobility Worldwide, TX-Austin
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas
- Make-A-Wish Foundation
- Helping Austin
- Austin SafePlace
- H. E. Butt Foundation
- Foundation for Laity Renewal
- H. E. Butt Foundation
- Mobile Loaves and Fishes
- Community First Village
- Hill Country Institute for Contemporary Christianity
- C. S. Lewis Austin Conference
- Deerpark Middle School, Roundrock ISD
- Great Oaks Elementary, Roundrock ISD
- Laurel Mountain Elementary, Roundrock ISD
- Westwood High School, Roundrock ISD
- NYOS Charter School
- United America Pageant
- Bethany United Methodist Church
- Summer Celebration
- Pure Sound Youth Choir
- Eyes of Faith – Austin, Texas Photographic Media Interest Group
- Power of the Cross Festival
- The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
- Cattlemen for Cancer Research – Annual Auction
- Intergenerational Day 2012
- Partnerships for Children
- Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
Life Insights – In addition to all this, in 2018 we (with the help of some friends) started a free group that met on Monday nights at my studio, with the vision that we can make our world a better place if we intentionally take a little time to get to know more people around us, and sharing in this thing we call “life.”
Sometimes social media these days is trending to be quite anti-social, often fostering polarization and discord. That is not what the world needs right now. We don’t need more polarization. So we started this group called Life Insights as a place where anyone can join us (for free) as we explore insights about life.
In a sense, our goal is simply to love our neighbors.
Our “neighbors” are the people we encounter in our life, the people next door, the people in our city, our coworkers, our friends, and this includes the people who may or may not be like us at all. What a world this would be if we could all do more to love our neighbors. We are trying to do our part, at least in a small way.
We initially started out meeting in person at my studio in NW Austin. We started with a book study of The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. From there, we decided to continue with more book discussions, and then we expanded our activities to include watch parties for TED Talks and documentaries followed by discussion time, and then we started also inviting a wide range of fascinating guest speakers including people who are striving to make our community better in some way, or are sharing from their life experiences with various disabilities and challenges. We also occasionally hosted pot luck dinners or outings to area restaurants and occasional breakfast get-togethers.
When this COVID-19 crisis turned our world upside down, we didn’t let that stop us! We switched to doing online meetings using Zoom video conferencing, just scheduling programs week to week. We are continuing into 2021!
We have done a bunch of different book studies:
… and a wide range of TED Talk “watch parties” and discussions
… and discussions about various documentaries
We have had some absolutely wonderful guest speakers:
We had a fun time at our Drum Circle and Picnic Around a Campfire at South Wind Equestrian Center in Leander!
We’ve eaten together, pot lucks, dinner outings to area restaurants
We had a fantastic study of the book “The Road Back to You” led by two licensed professional counselors,
Lisa Blackwood and Sherri Woodworth.
We can ALL choose to make this world a better place and love our neighbors a little more.
On this New Year’s Eve, as I reflect on all we have done through our little business, I smile. So many wonderful memories and great moments. I have discovered over the past decade+ that my business may be photography and teaching classes, but my real business is about loving people.
Thank you all for being a part of our lives. Gail and I both thank you so very much.
Wishing you a better 2021. We can all help make it a good year.
P.S. Please help us spread the word about our classes and my photography business. That’ll enable us to keep doing what we’re doing. 🙂
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