As I’m spreading the word about Loaves & Fishes’ Concert to End Hunger, people assume I don’t know who Harry Chapin is. I was not around to buy his albums when they were first released and I never saw him live in concert. He died when I was a 1-year-old.
This weekend I’m going to an alumni reunion at the YMCA camp I went to as a child. It is also the place I started my working life at 16 and stayed with clear through college. The YMCA taught me the vital impact of children and families having access to recreation, summer camp, swim lessons —whether they can pay for it or not. They are the reason I entered and stayed in non-profit human service work. Harry Chapin was a standard on the mix tapes made to memorialize each summer. He is big in the camp songbook. We even used “Flowers Are Red” in our annual staff training curriculum. Harry’s Greatest Stories Live was among the first CD’s I ever owned. When I joined the staff of Loaves & Fishes last September and I was told we were thinking of doing a Steve Chapin Band concert, I felt a knowing and rejoicing in my heart’s memory. Perfect.
Harry Chapin’s songs tell the stories of people. The story of fatherhood, loneliness, falling in love, old love long past, what happens to children, how people dream… He gives us those moments we know in our hearts as the truth of the human condition. It’s emotional.
Celebrities often get behind charitable causes and social justice efforts. Sometimes it’s not sincere or impressive, but in Harry’s case, it is. Harry Chapin gave an estimated $6 million to charity during his lifetime. Hunger relief was his life mission. You can hear it on that live track where declares, “There’s enough food on this planet to feed everyone twice over” and powerfully questions, “Why, why, why are people hungry?”
The Harry Chapin Foundation continues to support organizations today that help people become self-sufficient. I think Harry would be pleased to know that his life work continues, but he would also be very sad to know that it has had to continue. People are still hungry.
During his lifetime, Harry also founded WhyHunger, an organization that still exists to build a broad-based social movement to end hunger. Their core values speak of the understanding that solutions and innovation are often found in the grassroots. Where Loaves & Fishes sits, this is a daily truth.
What we cycle through every day at Loaves & Fishes is what changes the world. Recovering the wasted food from our community and getting it to those who need it is part of this solution. The conversations we have with every client now, through our Client Engagement Model is an innovation that changes the face of hunger relief. If our ideas change the way we do things, and others do things, it is grassroots change. I’m so happy I have arrived here at Loaves & Fishes to see it happen.
On September 19th, I will also be happy to hear Harry Chapin’s music live, from the closest thing I will ever get to the real thing. All my life’s a circle, too.
Miranda Barfuss, Special Events Manager