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Good books are like good friends. We meet them, get to know them and spend time together when we can. We mark special pages like special occasions, and we share what we love about them with others. Then sometimes we drift apart, even forgetting what once we found so appealing. Our memories fade. The footprints on our hearts begin to disappear. Then, one day, we reconnect. We remember why we were so happy to meet, however many years ago. Yogic wisdom says simply, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” So it goes, with books and friends.
In 1994, author M.J. Ryan edited the book “A Grateful Heart: Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles.” It was a beautiful collection of 365 blessings and reflections centered on gratitude. It was dedicated to an organization called Share Our Strength, a decade-old non-profit, founded by Bill & Debbie Shore, to help alleviate and prevent hunger. I was captivated by the daily practice of giving thanks, and awakened to the fact that gratitude connects every heritage, culture and religion. It is universal. It did then, and does now, seem so very powerful.
I was also captivated by the work of Share Our Strength, and what seemed to me to be a universal cause for our foodservice industry – to help feed the hungry. I gave away dozens of copies of “A Grateful Heart” to family, friends and colleagues. My book introduced me to new friends, and so many were connected to Share Our Strength. Eventually I only had one copy left, and it started its new unglamourous life as part of the decor in our home, only to be thumbed occasionally at Thanksgiving.
Flash forward a couple decades, and so much has changed. Share Our Strength is now probably more familiar as No Kid Hungry. Following the leadership of Bill Shore and his world class team, the foodservice industry has helped raise millions of dollars, and is full of advocates and activists; chefs, marketers, suppliers, associations, restaurateurs, managers, employees and CEOs.
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Dine Out for No Kid Hungry is big and getting bigger. Unfortunately, the number of children who are food insecure has also continued to get bigger. It was 6 million in 1994. Today it is 16 million. Some days it is tempting to feel weary, or worse, to be cynical about the real chances of solving childhood hunger in the US, especially when there seems to be so much human suffering in the world. I was feeling that way last week; almost the end of the year, so much to do, so much undone, and once again not really feeling ready for the holidays. I was looking for some inspiration, when I found my well-worn copy of “A Grateful Heart.”.
I had completely forgotten the beautiful forward written by Bill Shore. He reminded us that the mere fact that we all get hungry a couple times a day is a condition of our humanness, a connection created by nature. If you accept that idea, then hospitality, serving food, and taking care of those who don’t have enough food is all noble work. We should be proud of working in an industry that serves so many in so many different ways. Shore closed with a quote from Dorothy Day, head of the Catholic Worker movement. “The greatest challenge of the day is to bring about a revolution of the human heart, a revolution that has to start with each one of us.”
I find great peace in knowing that our community has been engaged in that revolution for a long time. As we get ready to announce the Best Practices award nominees for our annual Global Best Practices Conference, we know once again that great companies care about their people and their communities. They have purpose. #GivingTuesday is a new tradition, a chance to engage socially and digitally with other friends, colleagues and citizens who care. It is about someone or something bigger than us. It is a chance to park our cynicism at the curb, and make a difference. We are so grateful that we get to serve the companies that do that on Giving Tuesday, and everyday. See you online.