This is the first of a 19 part list of my favorite things about 2019. There are books and movies and artists and albums and places and experiences. Making the list has been a helpful way of looking back and taking stock of my year. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some important items. No doubt in 20 years I’ll look back at several things on the list and ask, “Huh?” But this is an attempt at this moment in time to remember…
It’s often difficult to describe what I do for work. My job description has non-profity terms like “collaborative” and “capacity building” in it, and I’ve been sucked into the world of saying things like “bandwidth” instead of “time” and “move the needle” in place of “get shit done.” I work to solve the issue of hunger in Texas, but I don’t typically do what is known as “direct service.” With few exceptions, I’m rarely handing out food or money or resources. But I work with organizations who do to help them do what they do better.
That changed some this year when my organization received a grant to implement an experimental project that delivered boxes of non-perishable food items to families with children who lived in rural areas without steady access to a summer meal program. I’m usually not a fan of these type of programs that simply hand food out to people without giving them any choice or agency to do what they feel is best for their families. I think the best method for poverty and hunger alleviation is to just give people money and trust that they have the wisdom to manage it adequately. But in many of the communities we work in, there was a significant barrier to even get to a grocery store, which in some cases were up to an hour away from recipients homes. So I bent.
We literally put the massive program together in less than two weeks, and it is probably the thing I am most proud of in my time at my organization. What made it even more special was the fact that the school districts in Henderson County, where I grew up, were some of the areas that benefitted from the program. In May I got to hit the road and visit with school leaders in Brownsboro, Chandler, Eustace, and Athens, in addition to districts in Leon County. It was a meaningful experience to be in a place to give back to the communities that helped form and shape me into the person I am today.