On Suffering and Giving
One of my convictions is that it is essential for us to engage actively and concretely with the suffering of displaced millions around world.
I have my theories on why. But the other question is how?
I send updates about Syria or Sudan or C.A.R. in our Twitter and news feed, but I’m not always sure this is wise or healthy. While I believe that bearing witness can both honor and protest suffering, seeing without responding can also make us callous or nihilistic or afraid or depressed. Reduction to 140 characters (!) sent or read while walking the dog (and intermixed with pictures of what Uncle Joe ate last night) threatens to trivialize. Yet deep compassion without action or interaction can sometimes shake us. As someone who grew up in a war, it has become increasingly painful for me to even watch the news about Syria. But pain doesn’t necessarily do anybody any good. Feeling strongly, as an end in itself, can become self-destructive.
One reason I think refugee resettlement is so important is because it extends an invitation towards clearer moral vision, empathy, humility, and hope. Resettlement invites us to go beyond pain in the evening news. Resettlement is real people losing all, then building new lives here in a place that most matters to us—our neighborhood. We may never know their story. For the most part we don’t need to. But the simplest of interactions help dignify, humanize, and heal.
From there, I know, it gets pretty complicated, but the part I’ve felt most concerned about is employment. If resettled refugees can’t find work in our communities, then the whole idea becomes unviable. Part of our strategy with Beautiful Day and Providence Granola is to try to align the two concerns: to mobilize refugee employment while inviting our community to connect with world crises in small active ways.
This is why we’re producing a simple consumer product. We’ve wanted this product to be nourishing, delicious, and affordable so that each purchase/touch/taste invites a shift towards mindful engagement and away from distance or despair. If a consumer has the passing thought, "People in need are important," or "It matters for our community to extend hospitality," or "Anyone who really wants to work really should have that opportunity…" then we’ve accomplished something. Perhaps these are only micro-shifts in thinking—and forgive me if I’m over inflating the value of a granola bar—but I honestly do wonder if they can be more powerful and practical than watching another tearjerker clip on news.
We’re still figuring out how to do this. We don’t have a lot of models, especially in food manufacturing. It can be kind of a tough sell to charge more for a product because it’s being handmade by refugees—and yet we’ve managed to sell about 12,000 granola bars plus a lot of granola in the last year. That adds up to a lot of people making an investment in refugee resettlement.
Over the last couple weeks, I've sent an appeal to previous supporters and granola customers to see if they would consider a donation. Rather than send out a mass appeal, I've decided to put part of that letter in this blog entry.
The truth is, we don’t yet know where our funding will come from over the next few months. Right now, more than half of our funding comes from granola revenue. Most of the rest comes from either individual donations or foundations associated with individuals who care deeply about our work. We're proud that this is such a grassroots effort, although we know we will (soon!) need larger grant or foundation funding in order to survive--so we continue to apply. These things take time. We do believe this work is important and that our model could eventually have a wide impact. And our employees inspire us with their hope, faith, and determination to press on despite facing the worst the world has had to offer.
As an individual, you can give by:
1) A check in the mail, the old fashioned way. Make it out to Beautiful Day. The address is 73 Governor Street, Providence, RI 02906.
2) Using a credit card (paypal) through the widget on your right or our donate page.
3) Setting up your bank account to send a monthly check. (Email me if you’d like guidance on how to do this.)
All gifts are tax-deductible.
Other ways to donate, provide job training, and involve your community with refugees through granola sales:
1) If you are part of faith-based organization, you can sell bars at your church or synagogue.
2) If you work in a small office, you can host a counter display of granola bars and collect payment for us.
3) If you have some influence with a large corporation (like a hospital, school, hotel chain, bank), you could advocate for them to buy a set quantity of bars per month (like 500) at retail prices in lieu of a donation.
4) If you shop at Amazon.com (as of this week!) you can now request Amazon to contribute a portion of your purchase at http://smile.amazon.com/ch/45-4946110.