Believing in Good

Believing in Good

Pentecost 121


“The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out,” the blue-eyed man told the reporter.


Two women were sitting at a coffee shop sharing some quiet time as they watched the hustle and bustle of humanity swirl around them.  “One of my biggest regrets,” the first said, “is that I simply lived, worked for a paycheck that just paid for the essentials in life.  I always wanted to do more, to start a foundation or charity to help others.”  Her friend put down her cup and explained how she made her living count.  “I helped children with cancer have a safe and enjoyable summer camp experience.  I helped fund a college scholarship program.  I gave to a center that helped people with substance abuse issues and I supported a program that united corporations with community partners to expand corporate giving and create stronger communities.”


The first woman looked at her friend in amazement.  “Goodness gracious!  We both worked the same job and I know you had to have been paid a similar salary to my own.  How did you ever manage that?”  Her friend took another sip of coffee and smiled.  “I made my living count,” she replied.  “I bought salad dressing and dog food.”  She bought products from companies that give back to their communities which made her, as their customer, someone who gave back. 


We all should be farmers in our living… putting something back as we use the world’s resources to support our own life.  As the woman in the above anecdote explained to her friend, she did so by simply living, but she made her living count.  We all need to purchase things and many of us purchase our food instead of growing it or making it.  It really does not take more effort to know the track record of the companies from whom we purchase those things.


The actor Paul Newman, whose quote opened this blog post, led what was to many a very charmed life.  He found success in his acting and was able to enjoy expensive hobbies like race cars.  However, Paul Newman was not only a man with famous blue eyes.  He was a man with a conscious.  “I wanted to acknowledge luck; the chance and benevolence of it in my life, and the brutality of it in the lives of others, who might not be allowed the good fortune of a lifetime to correct it.”  Paul Newman had a little-known hobby of cooking.  He parlayed that hobby into a food company called Newman’s Own.  They began with Newman’s own recipes for spaghetti sauce and branched out into other items like salad dressing.  There is a line of pet foods as well.  The proceeds from this line of culinary items go directly into various charities Paul Newman established.


One of those charities is the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, the name taken from the famous film Newman starred in about the outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang camps offer a summer respite for children suffering from cancer.  Proceeds also have help fund a substance abuse treatment facility named after Newman’s son who died from a drug overdose.  Personally Paul Newman and his actress wife Joanne Woodward donated over a quarter of a million dollars to help refugees from Kosovo when theirs was the country under warfare.


Sometimes helping another is as simple as selecting which brand to purchase at the grocery store.  My laundry detergent goes into nature ravaged areas and offers free clothes washing to victims.  My dish detergent goes to areas with oil slicks and cleans affected waterfowl.  My snack food company donates proceeds to local food banks and national child hunger prevention programs.  Every time I go to the store, I can be a humanitarian.


We all purchase items.  Few of us make or grow everything we consume or use.  Start buying smart by making those purchases count.  It really can be done, even on a tight budget.  Education is a big thing for ma and Paul Newman used some of the proceeds from his personal and company holdings to fund a ten million dollar scholarship endowment at his alma mater.  In 2008 he contributed over twenty million dollars to charities and was named the Most Generous Celebrity of 2008.  Paul Newman’s philanthropy did not die upon his death in 2008.  His daughters have picked up the gauntlet and are doing their parents proud.  Nell Newman has her own foundation, which began as an organic subsidiary of her father’s food empire, which is funding cooperative food networks and hunger and poverty initiatives all over the globe.


I like knowing I helped with a wee little bit of that charitable giving.  When faced with the chance to purchase one of the Newman’s Own brands, I gladly do so, knowing that I am like a farmer, putting something into the world as I take something out.  I like knowing I am helping to cultivate a better future as I live the present.  What will you eat today?  Could it possible help someone else have something to eat?  If you purchase a product from Newman’s Own brand, it will.  It is just that simple to be a humanitarian.  Life is much more than just living.  Life is about doing positive things that give back to society.  Sometimes that is as easy as a trip to the grocery store.  Sometimes going shopping can create something extraordinary for someone else.



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