Whether you have or haven’t noticed lately, the world is getting a little more interesting for some of us. Job loss (in my own home, job losses for both of us at the beginning of the summer for which the joblessness has not yet ended), increasing cost of living, a government shutdown, the further separation of family and friends as we move in search of economic stability for our families. In fact, the number of blows that life seems to punch at us these days is enough to hack a large oak tree into an unrecognizable branch-less trunk.
Pruned a bit too far, it is easy to wonder about how much worse it can get, and if the next blow will leave you a withering twig in sand. You ride the emotional ups and downs with a strength that you never thought you had. A possible new opportunity gives a whole new branch of hope overnight, but then the “yes” you need doesn’t come. You remain strong. Your intellect knows that it’s just another “no” and one day your “yes” will come. But then, as my fiance’ says, the hopelessness hammer seems to come out of nowhere, to hack down your new branch of hope with a swift and painful blow. It’s not easy to remain strong when you don’t know how you are going to continue to live.
This is the best way I can describe the turning of a new direction for Safe Eats: It started as a fun blog of recipes for a little boy who wanted to have pizza again. It then evolved into developing recipes that included not just him and his allergies, but that of his friends.
As my family learned more and more about the life-threatening severity and prevalence of food allergies among so many children, our hearts went out to the members in our online groups that would report of their long nights in the ER and who found the very depths of emotional strength for which I have never imagined trying to pull from. Mothers and fathers holding the hand of their child, strapped to machines, struggling to breathe, struggling to live, and not knowing if they’ll go home to a room full of toys and space-themed blankets with no child to enjoy the rest of his innocent journey into life.
While my son has suffered intense reactions and pain, I’ve never had to watch him dance the edge of the cliff of death as other parents do nearly every two minutes in hospitals across the globe. We are very lucky. Our problems are not as big. But this is a pandemic that needs to be our problem.
When I wrote the article about my son wanting to help his friend with her peanut allergy, making sure we don’t even have it in our house so that he never has it on his clothes when he is in class with her, it warmed my heart. Now, just because my son is my kid, doesn’t mean I’m going to think he can do no wrong. He is human just like the rest of us, with some things he needs to work on. However, there is something that my fiance’ pointed out to me about him. He said, “Your son has a really strong moral compass. Have you ever noticed that he absolutely will not sell anyone out even if it gets him into trouble? He won’t tell me if you left the light on or if his friend left the toys upstairs. I never find out until you tell me. He is so protective.”
After he said that, I thought about other scenarios where my son took the heat for his friends. While I always thought it was sweet, I had never given him due credit. As my child goes with me everywhere and quickly runs with all his might to get ahead and open the door for me and for other people, and the way instantly and enthusiastically gets up to help me with anything, I wonder how this child came from me. As an adult, I am not as helpful as he is – and I should be. I think about what drives him and I watch him as he reads comic book after comic book. He wants to be a Hero.
He’s not the only kid that wants to be a Hero, so do his friends. Have you noticed this about kids? They love Heroes! Secretly, so do grown-ups! (I’m still a sucker for Super Man movies to this day). My son, and his friends, are reminding me about the best part of human nature that resides within all of us: the Hero. It is the Hero inside of us that keeps wanting to be.
The more we have watched my son want to be a Hero, it has made us want to be a Hero with him.
One might say, isn’t the Hero theme a bit of a trope for something like an emerging nonprofit? Yeah, sure, it could seem to be an ego thing but if you reflect upon your own life and that of others, you realize that everything we do is based upon our need to be a Hero in some way. All emerging and ongoing nonprofits should look to emulate Heroes. And so should every business, organization and individual.
As for being Hero-driven, most people are already doing it – thinking about how to make life better for themselves and those they love. There is a Hero inside of you when you drive to work and think about how you are going to perform toward a hoped-for promotion and make a nice Christmas for your loved ones. There is a Hero inside of you when you go home and assess what you have accomplished and what you still want to accomplish. There is a Hero inside of you when you cook dinner for your family and try to give them the best nutrition. There is a Hero in you when think about how you can make it better. There is a Hero in you when you lie down at night and reflect on how you are going to solve your problems and that of those you care about. Whether you acknowledge it or not, you are constantly striving for a better future for you and your family. YOU are a Hero, every single day. So is the very environment that encourages us to dare. From the trees that offer a branch with which to climb to the stars the light the path in darkness; and so on it goes – Heroism – to the very diligent and hard-working worms that feed the soil that makes the food that sustains us.
I encourage you to look back up and see why I don’t like the misuse of the word ego anymore. And here is the explanation of why:
Ego became used quite frequently by the famous psychologist, Sigmund Freud. Ever Since he decided to attribute the word ego to the part of our brain that is cognizant only of itself and chose to define it as something that resides in total denial of what is outside of us, ego has been adopted in our modern cultural language as something that means only selfishness. It points the finger and makes a judgement about other’s egos. So, we all walk around with this ego that we’ve been told we have, along with the associative guilt that comes along with making sure that it does not get “out of control” with boastfulness and pride. If you think about it deeply, it does almost everything to our minds the way the word “sinner” does. Which is silly, really. There is nothing wrong with being proud of something GOOD that you do to benefit others.
If I ever start a linguistic trend in this world, it would be to ban the word ego altogether and call this thing inside of us, the one that helps us survive for our families and those we love: the Hero. I think this very word is what makes us Human.
Heroes are Humans, and Humans are Heroes. We are humble, kind, compassionate, giving and hard-working. We lift each other up and find ways to solve problems. That’s what we do.
If we are not solving problems, we are wasting our talent.
In my journey to create and share recipes for people with all kinds of severe food allergies, I have met families who have been met with sarcasm and spite as they ask others in the community to support their efforts to keep their child safe or from hurting. We have experienced it ourselves. We have met families whose children are suffering from symptoms but who cannot afford to have the non-allergenic foods that would allow their children to participate in social gatherings and avoid the emotional pain of exclusion. We have watched children with food allergies, including our our son, sit and watch as their classmates enjoy cupcakes. These children no longer go to pizza parties, birthday parties and restaurants because it is too painful. It is easier to staying home with an enthusiastic parent trying to recreate a favorite treat to make it all better. These children have to give away 90% of the candy they get in their trick-or-treat bag. They have to choose between saving their social standing among peers or saving their own life, a particularly hard thing for preteens and teens to do, especially when it is so important to learn the social nuances of life and work.
So, this brings me back to defining the direction of Safe Eats. With the help of caring people both near and far, we have teamed up to work on the following things:
- Help our son and his friends participate in social gatherings, rituals, festivals, dinners out and holidays around the world.
- Help those who have been suffering too long finally receive diagnosis and treatment.
- Raise compassion among the communities that need to support those parents who have held their child’s hand in the ER and wondered if they were going to have to bury him or her because of a simple, accidental bite of the wrong cookie.
- Contribute to other organizations that are seeking a cure and contributing to education.
- Educate where we can and do everything we can to make the world a safer place.
As my family struggles to make it economically, we realize how lucky we are and we realize that we need to be stronger for those that could benefit from what we’ve learned. We must exercise the ideal of hope we cling to. We must make the world a place where food isn’t a death sentence for anyone. We MUST make it more affordable for a child to have a safe cupcake and enjoy life. This is what Safe Eats stands for. We must all be Heroes.
If I would ask any reader to do anything after reading this article, it would be to ask yourself one question: What you would you say to yourself if you were your own child? What do you stand for? What does the Hero in you want to do?
Can you ask both yourself and your real or inner child about the legacy are you going to leave here beyond your life? How will you hone the talents and strengths given and invested in you and make good use of them?
Lastly, How can we all inspire each other to add a new dimension to the Hero that already exists within all of us?
If you do nothing else, replace the word ego, with HERO. Inspire others to do the same.
And Then… OWN IT.