Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hunger - it's not a game

Tunafish sandwiches on buns


Summertime, and the livin' is easy (Porgy & Bess by George Gershwin, 1934)

Ah, the lazy, hazy days of summer. Unlike the staccato pace of a 24/7 lifestyle, summertime conjures up images of sweet tasting R&R -  escaping with a pulp fiction novel while nestled in a tree slung hammock, walking on the beach at late afternoon’s golden hour, taking a dip in the ol’ swimming hole, or just chilling with munchies and a cold one. Bottom line, no cares in the world. 

Not so if you’re hungry. And it don’t matter whether the fish are jumpin', or your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin’. You can’t hush your belly, when it’s crying. 

Most of us are fortunate not to know that gnawing feeling in the pit of our stomachs, but that’s what too many kids face as they sprint out the door on the last day of the school year. Summertime hunger is an extended version of what some kids deal with every Friday afternoon from September to June as the cafeteria buttons up and rests until Monday lunchtime. 

But it doesn’t have to be. We can help. We can make tunafish sandwiches. 




It is a shameful fact that here in the US of A, the greatest food producing nation on earth, upwards of 50 million Americans frequently worry where their next meal will come from, and when they’ll have it. A third of those Americans are kids. As hard as that is to fathom, it gets worse. Despite all the energy, open land, and the majority of our freshwater gobbled up to produce America’s cornucopia, 40 percent goes uneaten. That’s the equivalent of tens of billions in cash flushed away. 




Meanwhile the wasted food piles up and rots in landfills wafting methane into our already challenged air. Cutting the waste by just 15 percent would make enough food available to feed half those hungry Americans. Fixing this food challenge, just like the myriad of other cracks in our systems, is an immense undertaking … but it is not insurmountable.

OK, there are cracks, but it’s through those cracks that light filters in. The rays create illumination enabling work to start on repairs. A Talmudic teaching also shines light for the way forward - "It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.” 

This is where tunafish sandwiches, and Willing Hands come in.  
















My wife and I are fortunate to spend summers in New Hampshire’s Upper Valley Region. There’s a lot to love here, but all that goodness doesn’t mask the coexisting needs. That’s one reason we connected with Take a Bite Out of Hunger. In an impressive, precision fashion, the program mobilizes teams of volunteers working out of Vermont’s Hartford Middle School Cafeteria kitchen to make, pack, and distribute lunches to area families and children. Last summer Take a Bite supplied over 12,000 meals. Grant and donation monies are used to purchase food and more is provided by area farmers, grocers, and bakers. These local food producers are expert in creating top-shelf quality food … and they hate to see it go to waste. Sometimes their output out paces what can be harvested. That’s when the call goes out for gleaners

So what’s a gleaner? Willing Hands, a local non-profit has the answer. Like the lunch makers of Take a Bite Out of Hunger, Willing Hands dispatches teams to designated farms to pick surplus corn, potatoes, blueberries, you name it, any fruit or veggie which would otherwise be left to whither on the vine.  In just one of our hour and a half stints, my team gleaned 150 pounds of potentially abandoned ripe blueberries. Not surprisingly, some of the blueberry trays turned out at Hartford Middle School the next day. We didn’t feed all the hungry, but we made a dent in the problem.  


















"It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.” 

This incremental approach means that the goal may not be reached in one generation. Each generation will improve the world as far as it can, then it must pass on the mission to the next generation, until the goal is reached. 

In the meantime, we can help. We can make tunafish sandwiches. 




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                                   all images ©David Greenfield

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Teach a man to fish

“Feed a man a fish and his hunger will be sated ……. 


…… Teach a man to fish and he will never know hunger again.” 


Joe and Aaron

But what if his hunger is to explore, to grow, and to expand the shorelines of his world? You might lend him your boat so he could sail away to investigate the opposite shore. But if you teach him to build a boat, his craft could ferry him to possibilities well beyond the horizon. 

The fish/fishing parable speaks of empowerment through transmitted wisdom. At first glance, the beneficiary appears only to be he who hungers. But can the teacher not also feel a hunger? If it is true that one who gives also receives, then passing down knowledge acquired through years of experience fulfills an equally compelling need of the teacher. 

Let’s unpack this proposition viewing through a real time lens …….

As in the previous years, a small cadre of seasoned New Hampshire craftsmen assembled to begin a project guiding local teens in building a seaworthy vessel from scratch. The team was from Eastman, a small lakeside community. It proudly lists a skiff and mahogany kayak in its growing fleet. This year’s project, code named - Whatever Floats Your Boat, was a Kaholo 14 stand up paddle board. The design would produce a handsome craft not only capable of spiriting its navigator from one shore to the next, but also to shores yet to be envisioned. With camera in hand, I was privileged to be in the room where it happened for every step of the construction, witnessing the ‘give and take’ which emerged between the teens and their mentors. All reaped unheralded rewards from the generation to generation synergy. The experience was a form of déja vue all over again.

John, Chief of Operations with David

Back in the Sixty’s, folk legends Peter, Paul, and Mary helped shape the vision of many young minds with ideals messaged in the trio’s lyrics and songs. Today, although not writing music or lyrics but whistling while they worked, John, Roger, Frank ….. and Mary taught the essentials of boat building to a new generation. During winter and spring school vacation weeks they worked alongside their charges, a select crew from Eastman’s Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), a team which also has several Eastman improvement projects in landscaping and construction to its credit. While building the Kaholo 14, mentors instilled the importance of patience, problem solving, precision, attention to detail, and more to the mission at hand. They transmitted knowledge amassed during their lifetime experiences.  

Roger

All older adults like these mentors have gradually built their own reservoirs of knowledge. With active career years mostly in the rear view mirror, sharing talents for the benefit of their communities is a common thread for their next life stage, their encores. Partnering on projects with area youth is a feature of life in Eastman. The community, tucked within Grantham, NH - town of three thousand, was singled out as a 2016 USA Best Intergenerational Community. The honor was a shared one. The other recipient was Milwaukee, a city in command of vastly greater human resources and funds. 

on the level - Nick and Anna

Now back to the boat and learning to fish.


In June when completed and on display for the community to see, the Kaholo 14 was raffled off. As you might imagine, the lucky winner was ecstatic; but there was another winner - ticket proceeds were channeled into the next boat building project. That one will  provide another opportunity for Eastmanite mentors to give back. Like this year’s YCCers, the next Whatever Floats Your Boat crew will surely also glean newfound skills and knowledge. In the process they’ll be empowered to sate their hungers for exploration then confidently sail into their next life stage. No doubt about it, boat building in Eastman is a win-win.

photo credit Ellen Chandler


To view the full essay of images and text for Phase I and Phase II of construction, click on the following links:

https://fotovisions.smugmug.com/Journalism/Whatever-Floats-Your-Boat

https://fotovisions.smugmug.com/Journalism/Whatever-Floats-Your-Boat-Phase-II-The-Finish/

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                        all images other than the one noted ©David Greenfield

Thursday, July 20, 2017

You must come

images © David Greenfield 2017
Ellie’s home in Kutaisi, the former capital of Georgia

“You must come visit and see my country.” 
That was Ellie Kokhreidze’s impassioned request as she prepared to leave the US and return to her home and family in the Republic of Georgia. For two years Ellie cared for my mom 24/7. She had been a supportive ‘bookend’ as the last chapter of my mom’s life came to a close. Our families became one. But in 2013 with my mom gone, and too many years of separation from her family heavy on her heart, Ellie felt the draw of returning home to Georgia too powerful to resist. My wife and I didn’t know when we would visit, but we promised we would honor Ellie’s request to come ‘see my country.’

Where exactly is the Republic of Georgia? 
Georgia is nestled in the Southern Caucasus of Eurasia, at the crossroads of East and West. Traveling there is hardly a user-friendly journey; flights are long and tedious, and connections are  limited with long layovers. But with expert guidance and a lot of planning we made the journey, managing to traverse the country from Kakheti - the eastern wine region, to the mountains of the Kazbek in the north, to the shores of the Black Sea in the west. We returned to the US with profound appreciation for the warmth and hospitality of Georgians, passion for the wonderful food and drink, and new insights into geo-politics and personal sacrifice. Despite challenges of the travel, we wanted to go and keep our promise. 



Lunch at Ellie’s
gouda cheese, tomatoes, and bread, all fresh and purchased moments before.


But why did Ellie leave the country and her family? 
After collapse of the USSR in the early ‘90s, Georgia as a former republic realized independence but emerged from behind a shattered Iron Curtain devoid of any supportive Soviet infrastructure. Times were troubled, nothing worked, the Kokhreidzes lost almost everything. Although her first grandchild, a granddaughter, had just been born and her parents were aging, Ellie and her husband Johnny made a gut wrenching decision to leave and come to America to work and earn enough to rebuild. Becoming destitute was not in their playbook. Meeting Ellie’s family, spending time with them, and seeing how the Kokhreidze family’s life is back on track, was gratifying beyond measure.

Johnny’s toast to my family from his wine cellar

Crisscrossing the country, we also established a special friendship with another Georgian family - Molly, Kakha and their young inquisitive daughter Salome. Molly is an ex-pat journalist working for the BBC, Kakha is a patriotic Georgian Everyman who absolutely loves the US for having Georgia’s ‘back’ as it leans West away from Russia’s orbit. When we needed to travel from one region to another, regardless of road conditions, terrain, or weather, Kakha was at the ready to drive us. Along the way he tutored us about Georgian history, culture, food, wine, and religion while showering us with small gifts of local delicacies. When it was time to eat, he took us to out of the way roadside open air markets and bakeries, the ones only locals know about. Each stop on these roads less traveled brought us into another world. All were memorable. By the end of our adventure it was clear we were joined at the hip. For our last night in country, Kakha and Molly insisted Carol and I skip a hotel and stay over at their home and enjoy a home cooked feast and, of course, local wine. All of us, including Salome, are now also family. It’s the Georgian way. 

Salome and Kakha

                                                  The full Gallery of Georgia images can be viewed here: Georgia - the Republic of 


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Monday, February 27, 2017

Made in America



Fresh out of the oven, cradled in a checkered red and white towel, mom's apple pie permeates the kitchen with a sweet cinnamon aroma. 

Awakened by a cadence of wind gusts, the stars and stripes unfurl and snap crisply in a brisk autumn breeze. 

New Jersey’s favorite son, The Boss - Bruce Springsteen with his 
E Street Band belt out ‘Born in the USA’. 


All are 100% pure Americana. 




What about the Corvette, Levi jeans, Rawlings baseballs, Brooks Brothers suits, Converse All-Stars, even Ken & Barbie? They too are classics instantly identified the world over as ’Made in America’. 

But wait, are these icons  of Americana actually ’Made in America’? 

Hint, only one can claim the distinction. Can you guess?



    empty racks awaiting

Unless you selected Brooks Brothers suits, you’d be mostly wrong! Almost all production of the other classic Americana is shipped out.

Eighty percent of Brooks Brothers stately attire is made in the US. In fact they are produced in Haverhill, Massachusetts at Southwick, a company with a huge, impressively clean, and brightly lit integrated facility. By ‘integrated’ I mean the cloth comes in through one portal and the finished suits go out to retailers and custom order clients through another. 


                                                                                      
on Southwick’s factory floor


Next question — who are the craftsmen, gifted with the skill set to cut, sew, stitch, and assemble the high end suits?

Answer - immigrants, newcomers to the USA!

Southwick’s philosophy, coming directly from the top, is that all Americans - unless they are Native Americans - came from somewhere at some point. We have that in common. Southwick enables newcomers to continue coming to our country and realize their potential. Currently five hundred men and women, originating from Latin America, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Middle East, and further reaches buzz about the Haverhill plant. When hired, if their skill set is not up to par, they are trained at the company and put on a path to English proficiency. Southwick even provides subsidies for relocation and housing. The company is profitable and competitive while helping to weave new immigrants into the fabric of American life. 




                                                                            passing through Quality Control before the label and flag go on

Southwick doesn’t just share the American dream we talk about, it walks the walk. It keeps the American dream alive.
                          
                                                                                                                                 images © David Greenfield 

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Coming to America


© David Greenfield 2017

Far
We've been traveling far 
Without a home, but not without a star
Free, only want to be free
We huddle close, hang on to a dream
On the boats and on the planes, never looking back again
They're coming to America 

excerpts from America by Neil Diamond

For a hundred and thirty years these tempest-tossed souls yearning to breathe free have seen … a mighty woman with a torch … and silent lips, lifting her lamp beside the golden door!*  upon arriving to our shores.

* excerpts from Emma Lazarus’ The New Colossus poem in Lady Liberty’s pedestal 

                      © David Greenfield 2017                                                                                         

But after a century plus of proudly welcoming the tired, huddled masses entering America through New York Harbor, the golden  door is closing and a tightly meshed screen has been inserted before it. Perhaps a closer view of Lady Liberty’s face expresses what her silent lips now cannot. 


Just  few days ago, my wife Carol and I boarded a ferry for the cold, wind-swept journey out to Liberty Island on which the Statue stands. Both of us wanted to reconnect with her spirit at this time. I first saw the Lady in New York Harbor at the end of a Germany to America trans-Atlantic journey more than six decades ago. 

While in the Big Apple, we met and had revealing conversations with a lot of folks, people with names like Assumana, Marzena, and Ali just to name a few. The first was a man from the Dominican Republic who tucked our car away in the parking garage. He lit up when we mentioned fellow Dominican Big Papi and the Sox. Then there was  a hotel worker who inadvertently slipped into his native Polish as he passed us in the lobby offering a friendly good morning greeting of dzien dobry. He did an about face when I responded in kind. 

At our favorite Mediterranean restaurant, co-owned by a Greek and Jew, our Greek waiter introduced us to Ali from Bangladesh. Ali beamed recounting how he’s been working at the restaurant for fifteen years and has a sole purpose of providing the best education possible for his kids. Our friendship immediately blossomed. Within moments he followed up with presentation of complimentary double espressos and what Carol described as the best plate of assorted sweet treats she ever tasted.

So where are these little vignettes pointing? 

In short, the city that never sleeps would be taking a nap - actually very long and frequent ones - were it not for the efforts of immigrants. Not only that, if it weren’t for immigrants we might still be singing Rule Britannia to English monarchs. 

Consider this interchange in the play Hamilton between the Marquis de Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton. While savoring their key roles in General Washington’s Continental Army defeat of Cornwallis’s Red Coats during the decisive battle of Yorktown, the Marquis and Alexander turned to one another and proclaimed, “Immigrants, we get the job done!

By now you probably know Alexander Hamilton was a native of the West Indies and the Founding Father on our ten dollar bill. He was also the first Secretary of the Treasury, and responsible for developing the national bank and our Coast Guard.

Bottom line, immigrants are truly the ones contributing to making America great. 


Yours truly in Hamburg boarding the SS Marine Tiger, a converted WWII troop transport and cargo ship, for the two week voyage to New York. Family stories note I was always ready to eat during the journey whenever the dining bell rang. My parents unfortunately were often too sea-sick to join in.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Leaving what is familiar


                         

logo - 1255 Central Street office
Sunrise, sunset; swiftly go the years.’  The lyrics sum up passage of precious time. They are a signature theme of Fiddler on the Roof, an old story that never grows old, and one currently being retold to the delight of audiences at Boston’s New Repertory Theater. Leaving what is familiar is another of Fiddler’s timeless themes. Time and Leaving - both concepts brought me back to the day before bidding a last farewell to my office, a comfortable place to go to every workday for decades and one always perceived by patients and visitors as a warm, inviting venue. When my few remaining possessions were securely packed away that day, the place was transformed into a hollow shell of its former self. Surprisingly, rather than getting faklempt (from the Yiddish - choked up and sad), I actually felt content and at ease, my soul being infused with a sense of quiet satisfaction. That's when it hit, my Anatevka Moment.

But what is an ‘Anatevka’? 


It's actually a place; a fictitious, diminutive village somewhere in the vast steppes of Russia that served as the setting for Fiddler
a real East European village close to my heart

There's a telling scene near the end of the play just after the Tsar issued an edict expelling all Jews from the village that had been their home for as long as anyone could remember. For generations they persevered through harsh times and pogroms by roving bands of Cossacks, but this time it was different, it was the End - they would have to leave for good. Unlike the feeling when leaving ‘my Central Street office home’ the villagers did initially become faklempt at the thought of leaving their precious Anatevka. But soon they refocused, busying themselves loading horse drawn carriages for the forced journey ahead. As Tevye the Milkman and main character finishes packing his wagon, he spots his wife Golda sweeping the floors of their empty home and in shock bellows, ”What are you doing, we have to go, why are you cleaning?" Golda replies that even though she is not coming back, and certainly has no affection for the Tsar, she wouldn't feel right not leaving a clean house.  In the following exchange as villagers bid final farewells and reminisce a bit more, it became clear 
Anatevka-the place with its olio of pots, pans, brooms, hats, and ‘so what’s a stove?’ was not nearly as special as its families, friends, and the Traditions maintained.
That was the inspiration for my Anatevka Moment. 1255 Central Street was Home Sweet Home for decades, so ‘thanks for the memories,’ but leaving it was not time for sadness or regrets. The solid bond with everyone in my village was the all important take-away. Townsfolk of Anatevka gradually came to that realization as well. 

As 2016 fades to memory, more humanity is being forced to leave what is familiar to them now than at any time since the vast displacements post WWII. Witnessing this unfolding trauma of displacement fraught with uncertainty, and feeling helpless to stem the migration, I hope in a fleeting moment of respite, perhaps only an island spec of calm in a boiling sea, some will think of those closest to them on their march and experience an Anatevka Moment. 


Recounting a prior journey of forced displacement 


all images ©David Greenfield

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