Find THE Moment
Anchorage citizen Phillip Bunker is not a community activist. He is a new father, loving husband and absorbed graduate student. He makes a living by teaching adolesence at Bartlett High School. The last thing Bunker needs on his plate is another time-consuming task, such as addressing child hunger.
As an educator, he completely understands the urgency of the By2015:AMERICA movement. Every week he valiantly attempts to develop minds preoccupied with hiding the financial-straits their families find themselves in as the Recession goes into its fifth school year. The Anchorage School District counts 13,910 students hungry. Food Bank of Alaska estimates 33,000 children are hungry state-wide.
While preparing for the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, Bunker became impetuous. He made a snap decision. Even with all the things on his plate, he chose to do something – anything to make a contribution, no matter how small. The experience taught Mr. Bunker something about his neighbors and himself.
I found my moment to go from caring deeply about an issue into direct action, a new thing for me, just over a month ago. During the Fourth of July weekend, my wife and child were out of state. The vacuum made me long to fill my house with friends and neighbors. So, the Thursday before the Fourth, I printed up fliers for an imprompt charity barbeque in my backyard. I invited 40 or so fellow grad students, about the same number people living near me (some of these I knew, some were new introductions), as well as everyone I knew on Facebook.
My friend Kokayi had inspired me to do so. On Saturday, I had the barbeque. At first, I thought it was an unmitigated disaster. A dozen loyal, faithful friends saved me from feeling like I’d done something bad because hardly anyone showed up in comparison to the number of invites.
But, by the end of the day – six hours later – many people from the neighborhood had stopped by, everyone bringing donations. My Professors came through in their own ways, and a couple of super-friends showed their true mettle by chipping in big.
Surprisingly, two days later, another neighbor came by and dropped off some more peanut butter. She didn’t seem to mind that she’d missed the ribs, sourdough rolls and the salads I had advertised. (I had given the leftovers my neighbors, a Samoan family. Somehow, I suspect they’re always hungry, despite appearing economically stable).
A week after my initial impluse, the results of my peanut butter drive sat on my table and I realized two powerful things. One, the majority of the donations came from kids, or parents of kids; and the word of my drive had effectively spread to everyone who was even invited – which is the only way a movement can grow. Two, I found myself imagining I was a hungry child (*pause*, really consider this!), and I looked at that mound of peanut butter, mac and cheese and canned food – and yes, even the two bottles of barbeque sauce with a completely different eye.
That realization: after my fretting about the success of my event, after the effort I put forth cooking for a day, I realized that none of it was important at all compared to that child, or hungry adult, feasting their eyes on those donations on my rickety second-hand dinner table. I’m not ashamed at all to admit, that realization moved me to tears.
I’m tired from too much work – I’m tired from doing the day to day work of meeting, greeting and joining the communities around me, yet in writing out my experience I’ve found I can’t wait to plan the next barbeque.
Would my 10 year wedding anniversary in September be a bad day to plan it for?”
We at the By2015:AMERICA Movement think that your wedding anniversary in September is the PERFECT day to plan for it, Phillip. And on behalf of those who benefited from the donation of your time, talent and energy, we would like to say – THANK YOU!!