Today I'm choosing photographs to include in the "Thank You" ad for The Sacramento Bee's Book of Dreams, a project which I have photographed for the past five years. One thing that has surprised me this year is the number of tears I have witnessed. Traumatized tears of a woman describing her spiral into homelessness, tears from a parent afraid for her child's life, and bittersweet tears streaming down the cheeks of a teenaged mother as she speaks of the strength of her love for a child born too soon in her life. But what surprised me the most were not the tears of hardship, which we have all at some point shed, but the tears of gratitude that I saw as our Book of Dreams recipients answered this question: "What would you like to say to our readers who donate to help you?" Michael Pacheco, shown in the video below surprised me with his emotional response to this question.
After the story ran I hand delivered $1000 worth of gift certificates to the Pacheco family so that Michael could buy Christmas presents for his children. Later on this month we will set him up with furniture in his home so that each person will have a bed to sleep on. I think about what this kind of attention must mean to a struggling family, how the children will see their father after he has been publicly applauded for his volunteer efforts. It means so much more to them than the objects that they have received. It means that the community of Sacramento cares for those who struggle. This is why being a photojournalist is so special to me.
Thank you to all our readers who donated to Book of Dreams. To view this year's stories please visit www.sacbee.com/bookofdreams.