The pursuit of happiness. The men who wrote the Declaration of Independence famously put that idea on paper and called it one of our "inalienable" rights.
And do we ever pursue it. In fact, Americans spend great amounts of our time, money and energy chasing it. The biggest problem is, for many people, we're not even sure what it is we're chasing.
That's the enigma that led me my latest film, Happiness Is, a road trip that explores the myths and the truths of the "pursuit of happiness" in America.
Each screening of the film, benefits a local group or organization. Our next stop is Boulder Colorado Thursday February 25th, 7pm at the Dairy Center for the Arts and proceeds from the screening will go to the Colorado Coalition to End Hunger.
The Coalition was launched in October to systemically address the state's hunger challenges. They take a coordinated approach to ensure all Coloradans can put nutritious food on their table. Since their launch, there has been excitement around the leadership and solutions to hunger in Colorado. They've had local Rotary Clubs step up and start backpack programs that send kids home with food to eat over the weekend when free or reduced lunch is not available. They've steered faith-based community volunteerism towards summer food drives, ensuring kids have enough to eat over the school break. They've had food pantries (who are already stretched), agree to add more food stamp outreach to their efforts and had individuals and corporate volunteers join them in order to learn about the work.
According to Kathy Underhill, the Coalition's Executive Director, "I have truly seen regular folks do amazing things. One day when I was running a food bank, an older gentleman came in the back door to meet me. He introduced himself as Shorty - and said he had heard there were other seniors going hungry. He was 82 when I met him. He had collected cans from his neighbors for four months and cashed them in - presenting me with $165 to buy food for those in need. It really is about folks just thinking what their abilities are - then lending a hand."
I'm proud to be joining Kathy on a post-screening panel to discuss Colorado's hunger issues. Also joining us -
Bob Overstreet - The Coalition's very first volunteer. Bob has worked in the top levels of the technology industry. Now he uses all his technology, strategic planning and connections to help feed Colorado's hungry.
Jean Bowen. Jean is a volunteer chef for Operation Frontline. She teaches nutrition education and cooking to low income children and their parents and was honored in D.C. last fall for the number of classes she has taught.
Caryn Capriccioso, owner of interSector Partners and board member of Social Venture Partnerships of Boulder. She has a great story on her site Intersectorl3c.Com that to me embodies what this is event is about...
There was a Nebraska farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon...
One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.
"How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?" the reporter asked.
"Why sir," said the farmer, "didn't you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn."
He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor's corn also improves. So it is in other dimensions. Those who choose to be at peace must help their neighbors to be at peace. Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.
The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn.