Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
The Boston bar and restaurant community is tight-knit, and very generous with their time and energy when it comes, to cooking, mixing and serving for many great causes. Now it’s time to help one of our own.
On October 21st, bartender Alex Homans was riding his bike to work at Fairsted Kitchen in Brookline’s Washington Square. The restaurant was still a week away from opening to the public when Alex was peddling in, hoping to work on some new cocktail recipes. As we all know, life can change on a moment’s notice, and none of us are exempt.
Alex was cruising down Beacon Street when a car pulled out in front of him. He crashed into the side of the car, went straight up into the air, and landed on his back. Alex told me that wearing a helmet probably saved his life, but he still suffered a separated shoulder and a fractured vertebrae. Fortunately, the prognosis is good. After spending a few days in the hospital, Alex is looking at approximately 6 weeks of recuperation at home, followed by 1-2 months of physical therapy before he can return to work.
I found out about the accident from Daren Swisher, a friend, bartender and co-worker of mine. Alex has many restaurant industry friends who are rallying together to help him. He’s been in the industry in the Boston area for almost 10 years, including stints at Alchemy on Martha’s Vineyard, Flora in Arlington, Myers and Chang-South End, Russell House Tavern and Temple Bar in Cambridge, Backbar in Somerville, and now Fairsted Kitchen in Brookline.
In many instances, when you work as a server or a bartender, if you’re out of work, you’re out of pay. Insurance often doesn’t cover down time. There was a police officer at the scene of the accident, and the driver of the car was clearly at fault, and cited. Longer term Alex should recoup some compensation/damages, but near term he could use some help.
If you are in a position to help, here are a few ways that you can:
After a successful Sunday Brunch introduction last weekend, the team at PARK in Harvard Square has decided that round two on Sunday, 11/24 will benefit a friend and Grafton Group alumni, Alex Homans. All food proceeds from brunch will be donated to Alex as he recuperates from a recent bicycling accident. PARK’s new brunch offerings include Chef Mark Goldberg’s spirited interpretations of morning favorites like sourdough pancakes peppered with bacon or sausage in “The Collegiate” and a homemade hollandaise spiced with Old Bay for the “New England Bennie.” Brunch is available from 10AM-4PM and reservations are appreciated. For more information, please call: 617 491 9851.
#2- Go to Fairstead Kitchen at 1704 Beacon Street in Brookline. Introduce yourself to Andrew Foster, Patrick Gaggiano & team, order a Vin d’Orange ($6), and proceeds will go to Alex. Fairsted will be serving the Vin d’Orange (Alex’s creation) until further notice.
From the Backbar Facebook Page:
This week please come support our friend and former bartender here at Backbar: Mr. Alex Homans! Our drink of the week is a Time Out for Alex ($10), it’s a blue daiquiri with Bacardi Heritage, fresh lime, aged blue curacao and a little sugar! All proceeds from the drink will go to Alex who needs a little help from his friends due to the fact that he will be out of work because of a bike accident last month, leaving him a long road to recovery.
#4- Go to flora restaurant in Arlington, MA and purchase a Brandy Alexander. According to Mary Jo Sargent, 100% of sale proceeds from Brandy Alexanders with steamed milk will go to aid Alex’s recovery.
#5- If you work in a restaurant, run a drink special for a night, or throw a few bucks in at the end of the night and send it to Alex. You never know when one of us is going to need help.
#7- Stay tuned for updates. There’s a Boston fundraiser in the works.
In an era of so many crowdfunding campaigns and platforms, here is an opportunity to do something specific and direct (w/no admin costs) to help one of our own. Please do something if you can.
Thank you very much.
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Phantom Gourmet, Inc., derives a large portion of its revenue from the restaurant industry. Their restaurant “review” television show runs weekly in Boston, Rhode Island and Maine. Under the guise of producing legitimate restaurant “reviews,” the program is largely an infomercial for Phantom Gourmet (PG) advertisers. According to the PG website, “The company is led by the beloved Andelman brothers, with Dave serving as CEO, Mike heading the business division, and Dan heading the content division.” “Beloved” is in the eye of the beholder.
If you ask admirers (“Phans”) of Phantom Gourmet, the Andelman brothers can do no wrong. Conversely, when you ask seasoned, savvy, New England restaurant professionals about the reputation and track record of the Andelman brothers, you immediately strike a nerve.
In a recent op-ed column in the Boston Herald, Dave Andelman penned a shallow piece titled, Seeking help with Yelp bully, in which he accuses Yelp, the amateur customer review site, of bullying. Dave’s piece was inspired by negative reviews he received about the food-related events that his company produces.
From the Herald: My company produces major events that draw huge crowds. Somehow, the commentary on Yelp is overwhelmingly negative, including gross exaggerations like we charged $10 for beer (at a time when it was $5). We’ve tried to get comments removed, but Yelp makes it nearly impossible. My friends in the restaurant business have similar horror stories — some of them “reviews” by former employees or competitors that they can’t get removed. Yelp refuses to explain its methodology for verifying or filtering the material.
Within the piece, Dave goes on to criticize Yelp for not requiring their users to register and verify their identity, and Yelpers for submitting “bogus” comments. He portrays Yelp as a billion-dollar corporate bully, concluding with:
Bullying in school is rightfully being treated seriously. Bullying in online business also deserves serious treatment.
Dave raises some very legitimate points, but his argument is specious for two reasons:
#1- He has no credibility with a large number of highly regarded members of the restaurant community that he purports to represent. Many restaurant professionals have no respect for Dave Andelman and have made a concerted effort to distance themselves from him, and Phantom Gourmet.
I was contacted by a 25-year Boston restaurant industry icon after he read Dave’s piece who said, “They [Phantom Gourmet] don’t represent me. They’re not one of us, and they don’t speak for me. They’re bad for our industry because of their sleazy tactics. Dave is an entitled, pompous ass who does what’s best for Dave, period.”
Another chef/owner (20+ yr. veteran) stopped me on the street and added; “I want nothing to do with them [PG]. They don’t represent good food. They represent a tacky, cheeseball culture.”
These growing sentiments have been echoed to me (and online) hundreds of times over the last few years by restaurant industry professionals and astute customers.
#2- Dave Andelman whining about bullying is the ultimate irony. He’s calling for Yelp to be shut down for bullying when he has a history of bullying and suspect business practices. Dave Andelman is a manipulative fraud: his TV show, token efforts as a “lobbyist,” and personal conduct all betray a contempt for his viewers and the restaurant industry from which he derives his livelihood.
Dave also has a very short memory.
In the Herald piece, Dave states that as victims of Yelp, Hard-working people including chefs, waiters, bartenders, and hostesses* are publicly humiliated for real or imagined mistakes. This is personally and professionally damaging for them.
That sounds like a noble cause, but coming from Dave, it’s a lame attempt at chicanery and redemption.
On a Phantom Gourmet paid radio program on 2/12/11, Mike Andelman disparaged a Boston restaurant hostess*, calling her dumb, moronic and a monkey after she denied his request to be seated early, before the dining room opened. Mike also denigrated hostesses as incompetents who can’t do anything else in life. On the same program, Dan also made some inappropriate, sexist comments. After I called Mike and Dan out on this blog, the story was widely circulated, on food blogs, Universal Hub, Chowhound, Yelp and the Boston Globe.
Dave Andelman was on vacation at the time of the incident. Upon his return, Dan and Mike filled him in on the imbroglio during their next live radio segment on 2/26/11. Here are some excerpts from the program:
Mike (Replaying the taped segment) : “…this moronic hostess who was just getting her, uh, jollies off by sticking to the rules of her little brochure in a little binder…This little monkey, her only job is to look at this binder and say don’t let people in ‘til 5:30.”
[Not a great way to endear yourself to an industry you solicit your livelihood from.]
Dan (to Dave, CEO): Do you think this was so controversial that it should have been in the Boston Globe? Are you offended by what Mike had to say?
Dave: [No acknowledgement of Mike’s ‘dumb’, ‘moron’ and ‘monkey’ comments about the hostess.] I don’t even think it’s interesting enough for us to be replaying it on our own show. [3 brothers laughing hysterically] I’m waiting for the bomb to drop. That was it? That’s what you had to bother me for in Aruba and all week?
Dave downplayed and defended his brother’s insulting remarks and despite multiple opportunities, never apologized on behalf of his company. Even to this day, he’s using the childish, “We were just kidding” excuse, when it’s crystal clear from the audio that they weren’t. On Dave’s facebook page on 10/11/13, he scoffs, “This is the worst degrading of women I have seen since the Andelmans did three minutes of satire about a Grill 23 hostess! How dare you try to make people laugh?”
Not everyone bought Dave’s lame attempt to cover their tracks. The “three minutes of satire” led to stern, public admonishment from the parent company of the host radio station shortly after the Andelman insults:
“Greater Media has a great deal of respect for service industry workers and does not endorse or support the recent statements made by the Andelmans during their paid programming show on WTKK. We do not speak for them, nor do they speak for us.”
The owners of the restaurant where the Andelmans tried to bully the hostess also publicly condemned the Andelmans in a Boston Globe article:
“Himmel Hospitality is shocked and saddened at the personal attack that has been made on an employee and in such a public manner. We always hope that any guest that is dissatisfied with food or service at Grill 23 contact the General Manager or any member of management immediately. We stand behind our employee and her decision not to seat guests in a closed dining room. Himmel Hospitality and Grill 23 & Bar are very proud of our excellent staff and the service they provide.’’
On the 2/26 radio program, Dave stated, They [The Globe] do sort of try to claim there’s a massive online controversy. That’s just not factually accurate. There’s like four guys talking to each other online. I mean that’s ridiculous.
“Factually accurate” is not Dave’s forte.
As I mentioned in my comments to Dave on 3/14/11, “Tens of thousands of people have read and talked about the inappropriate, derogatory and misogynist comments made by Mike and Dan, and now they’ll be talking about your defending them.”
For the record, Dan Andelman did have the decency to apologize for some of his sexist comments. On the 2/26/11 radio program, Dan stated, “I apologize for my rude, insensitive comment about her back.” Dan’s apology was in response to his original comment asking how the hostess looked from the back.
[Dan was also classy enough to tweet the following on 9/26 after TV Diner (PG competitor) was cancelled: Just heard about @tvdiner cancellation. Best of luck to @BillyCosta & @jennyj33, both class acts.]
[Dave's reaction to the cancellation on facebook: Yeah, I heard, don't care that much....busy planning the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival.]
It’s stunning that Dave, as CEO, had an opportunity to reprimand his brothers for their comments on the radio and apologize on behalf of his company, but he dropped the ball.
On his attention-seeking Facebook page, Dave has a penchant for bashing restaurant industry bloggers who are onto his schtick. Almost monthly, I receive Facebook messages about another blogger or restaurant industry worker being ’unfriended’ and/or blocked from Dave’s page (along with me), or forwarded copies of screenshots (I saved them all) including taunting insults from Dave. Banning restaurant bloggers and informed readers is usually the result of Dave being challenged for his abuse and inability to substantiate facts. Deleting dissenters, and encouraging enablers, is a lot easier than engaging in intelligent discourse.
From Dave’s Facebook page:
Dave Andelman (September 17, 2013) : I like [Food Blogger], he’s the best food blog guy out there because he tries to be fair, but here’s how this will go: He will mention my name. Some of his pals will say how much they hate me and be typical FB [Facebook] tough guys, even though I could knock them out in two minutes in real life. [Food Blogger] will let them defame me, pull a Yelp, claiming he has nothing to do with it. Do I have that right, [Food Blogger]? If so, just steal the idea and don’t use my name, I’m used to it. Food Festival Sept 29!
From the same thread:
Dave Andelman: I just get so tired of all these chicken, internet tough guys, they’re like a bad girlfriend, so desperate for attention, and won’t leave when you ask them to.
Unlike some naive Phans, many members of the restaurant community in Boston and beyond, have not been duped by Dave.
Dave’s narrow-minded Facebook bully pulpit is also rife with bigotry, misogyny, and political bullying. Here are a few examples:
Dave Andelman (May 8, 2012): Maybe it’s wrong to say this, and I would never do it, but when I see an able-bodied man, standing on the street, begging for money, I want to punch him in the face and say, “What makes YOU think you don’t have to WORK like the rest of us?”
Dave Andelman (September 30, 2013): [In an argument with a facebook poster/Obama supporter about the government shutdown] Look I just said this president refused to lead, that is obvious, no budget or plan or negotiation, jeez get off your knees.
[Separate comment from Dave] Azzzzzia you should go down on him [Obama] like a circus seal.
Not quite what you would expect from a CEO of a very public entity. And definitely not what you want to see from the president of your Restaurant Trade Association.
As Dave scrambles to remove the incriminating facebook posts, you have to wonder how he ever thought it was ok to go public with such derisive drivel. He doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know. As one restaurant server stated in an email to me, Why would you draft an article for the Herald to let its readership know that your events get ”overwhelmingly negative” reviews? My response would be to wonder if your street festivals just suck.
RDC: This from [Dave] the guy who, along with his brother, my girlfriend and I heard denigrating his own [TV] viewers and listeners at the Summer Shack in Alewife, saying they do whatever they (the Andelman brothers) tell them to do, as their listeners know nothing about food.
I mentioned questionable business pratices earlier in this post. Here is a brief summary of the items I was referring to:
#1- Pay for play on the Phantom Gourmet TV show.
It is widely known that several of the restaurants recommended, and featured prominently on the PG program are also advertisers on the show. The program is oftentimes more an endorsement for advertisers than a legitimate restaurant “review” program. (PG does occasionally promote some better than average restaurants, outside of their cheeseball, “ooey gooey” wheelhouse, presumably as a diversionary tactic.)
Several Boston Herald online commenters, responding to Dave’s Yelp piece, are also onto the PG ruse, and called him out:
kbird: Are you kidding me? This article is blatantly stupid on a number of levels. Hey Dave-let’s get the government to legislate that you can’t accept advertising money from the restaurants your show reviews, because the content isn’t “fair.”
newaitress: Dave Dave Dave. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has less right to whine about bullying than you and your family. Please explain how Yelp making money from its advertisers is any different from the PG shilling for its advertisers. It isn’t.
dyang1: The Phantom Gourmet is easily the worst restaurant review program I’ve ever seen. The reviews are more advertisement than anything resembling a review. And the writing of the show is just as bad as the writing in Dave Andelman’s letter. Yelp may contain some reviews which are questionable in objectivity and content, but everything in the Phantom Gourmet is questionable in bias and taste.
MCslimJB: Dave Andelman is absolutely correct: it is wrong (bordering on criminal) for a business to profit from the propagation of bogus opinions of restaurants by phony critics who have a financial interest in the places they are praising. But as this kind of pay-for-play whoring is the exact business model that Andelman has made a tidy living from with his Phantom Gourmet empire, he’s the most hilariously awful advocate for this argument imaginable. It’s like watching one streetwalker beating up on another sorry chickenhead working girl for trying to work her corner. The Phantom needs to take off his own kneepads first before he slags another business for profiting from opinion prostitution.
nhunixguy: It’s always tough when you’re the playground bully and suddenly a bigger and smarter bully moves in and takes over. Sorry Dave, you’ve said too many stupid, mean, arrogant things over the years for me to do anything other than enjoy your whining. MCslimJB nailed it.
Upper Crust is a disgraced MA pizza chain, infamous for exploiting its immigrant workers. In 2009, the US Department of Labor ordered Upper Crust to pay more than $341,000 in back pay and overtime to their employees. And that was just the beginning of their problems. Long after the disingenuous business practices of Upper Crust became public, Phantom Gourmet continued to shamelessly partner with them, promote them, and run their commercials on TV and radio. The Andelman brothers often personally endorsed Upper Crust at the end of their radio segments when they would discuss where they were going to dinner that evening.
#3- Food Truck Controversy
Food truck operators are another segment of the population that Dave has alienated himself from. In an op-ed piece in the Somerville Patch, Dave declared that, ”…We need sensible rules so that: 1) The food truck industry can be successful and 2) The food truck industry will not: discourage restaurants from opening and expanding, cause restaurants to end their leases, or force restaurants to fire employees…The trucks should not be allowed within a one thousand feet walking distance of a restaurant… Alternatively, the limit may be lowered to five hundred feet if the truck sends a certified letter to every restaurant in the designated area, and the majority of the restaurants then approve issuing the permit to operate.”
The piece goes on to discuss proposed regulation, and attempts to make the case that food trucks were gaining an unfair advantage over restaurants. The article was inspired by a debate between a food truck operator and a restaurant operator (Phantom Gourmet advertiser), both of whom appeared on a PG radio program. The restaurateur claimed that food trucks were hurting his business.
Several food truck operators, restaurateurs, and cognizant consumers weighed in on the feud at BostInno, EaterBoston, Chowhound, and Universal Hub. Many felt that competition between food trucks and restaurants was healthy, and that it was up to consumers to decide the best food, service, and value. Several noted that reasonable regulations were fair, but Dave’s proposed 1000′ rule was unreasonable and his motivation was suspect, at best.
#4- RABA: Restaurant and Business Alliance
” Trade association providing restaurant and business owners with a strong voice in government and media.” (PG website.) Dave Andelman has stated, “We are the ultimate advocates for the restaurant community.”
Is Dave Andelman (RABA president) the strong, trustworthy voice that you want speaking for you? Not according a lot of restaurant professionals I’ve spoken with. I know several restaurateurs who will never consider joining because they believe that such an affiliation is toxic. I’ve also heard from current members who will not renew their memberships. It comes down to legitimacy, integrity and transparency.
Are restaurants that are paying dues (up to $1,000/year) to RABA getting preferential treatment on the Phanton Gourmet TV show? There is no hard data yet, but several RABA members are also Phantom Gourmet sponsors, and their relationship is not disclosed when Phantom Gourmet promotes them on their TV show. I concur with MC Slim JB‘s take on this relationship in his comments on an EaterBoston post:
I don’t have a problem with RABA’s lobbying efforts per se. By definition, a lobby is nakedly quid pro quo: I pay my dues, you fight for my interests. Sometimes RABA lifts all industry boats (as in its admirable, successful efforts to extend brunch liquor service hours…), and sometimes it only lifts its dues-paying friends’ boats (as when it champions the interests of specific brick-and-mortar restaurants over food trucks). I see the latter as classic crony capitalism, pushing selective government regulation to quash new competitors for the benefit of established entrants. But at least the interdependencies are fairly blatant, out in the open.
Where I find it less ethically sound is wherever the relationship is less explicitly disclosed, as in how the Phantom Gourmet TV show plays fluffer to its sponsors while pretending to be real reviewers, consumer advocates, critical guides to what is genuinely good. From an ethical food critic’s perspective, that’s indefensible, and it almost entirely accounts for the general enmity that the food-nerd community and the many restaurants that have chosen not to pay the graft feel toward the Andelmans. It’s not their taste we despise: it’s the insult to our intelligence inherent in knowing that someone paid for the servicing, yet the whore is trying to convince us she did it for love.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim to be a champion of hard-working people including chefs, waiters, bartenders, and hostesses*, and then condone their abuse by your colleagues/brothers. That’s hypocrisy.
You can’t claim that Yelp is a money-grubbing bully, and then bully and exploit the same group of professionals you profess to advocate for. That’s disingenuous.
Dave Andelman has shown his true colors. His vapid, self-serving piece in the Boston Herald, is a veiled attempt to evoke sympathy from his Phans, and a cunning attempt to endear himself to an industry that pays his bills. He has repeatedly, and justifiably, aroused the ire of many restaurant industry professionals, and I call bullshit.
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
I couldn’t let the week end without acknowledging the maturity and fortitude of Joey Prusak, the 19-year-old Dairy Queen manager who refused to serve a woman after she stole $20 from a visually impaired customer.
As I have often stated, tolerating and placating arrogant, abusive, and disrespectful customers enables them. Some customers need to be fired for the sake of employee morale, and for the benefit of the majority of customers, who are good people. Toxic customers are bad for business.
According to The Huffington Post, Joey Prusak not only refused service to the thief, but he also approached the victim and gave him $20 out of his own pocket.
This refreshing story has garnered national attention because there are so many things to like about it:
#1- Joey’s humility. “I was just doing what I thought was right,” Prusak said Thursday as he recalled the incident from earlier this month. I did it without even really thinking about it…Ninety-nine out of 100 people would have done the same thing as me.”
Joey, I wish that was true, but it’s not.
#2- It came to light through an independent observer, another customer in line behind the thief, who witnessed the incident and sent an email to Dairy Queen. From the email via Reddit:
An older lady in front of me picked up the [$20] bill and instead of telling the gentleman that he dropped it, she put it in her purse. She, as well as everyone else in the store knew that it was dropped by the gentleman when he was struggling to find his pocket and put his change away. Before I could say something to her, your employee stepped in. He politely asked her to give the $20 bill back to the young man who was blind. She told your employee that it was her money and she dropped it. Your employee asked her again to return the money to its rightful owner. She declined to do so. He then asked her to leave the store as he would not serve someone as disrespectful as her. She got extremely angry and began to swear at your employee. He stayed calm and never gave her any attitude. He calmly asked asked her to leave the store again, as he would not serve her if she wouldn’t return the money to its rightful owner.The older woman left the store, without returning the money. It was now my turn to order. Your employee kept his cool and greeted me politely and apologized for the incident that had just taken place.
[The entire email is worth reading.]
#3- Joey stood his ground and kept his cool.
#4- Someone took the time to document the story and send the email. Many people are quick to criticize and complain, but often hesitate to compliment.
#5- When Joey returned the money, he said he was doing it on behalf of Dairy Queen.
#6- Joey has worked at Dairy Queen for 5 years, and was just promoted to manager in the spring.
#7- Joey is saving money to attend school for business management. Perfect.
#8- Billionaire Warren Buffett, whose company owns DQ, called Joey, and according to the Huff Post piece, Joey said, “He called and thanked me for being a role model for all the other employees and people in general.”
#9- Business has picked up considerably, and people are leaving big tips.
#10- Dean Peters, a spokesman for International DQ, said the company is figuring out how to reward Joey.
I love this kid.
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Leave it to an 8-year-old to simplify what most of the world longs for.
President Obama followed a contingent of speakers, representing multiple religious faiths, who gave the sermons of their lives today. In his speech, Mr. Obama included the message, “No More Hurting. Peace”, written on a piece of construction paper, with drawings of two hearts, by Eight-year-old, Martin Richard, from Dorchester, MA, who died as a result of the bombing attacks on Marathon Monday.
We all have iconic memories of where we were during life-changing events. My memory of the afternoon of 2/15/13 will be of sitting at the counter of Brazilian-owned, Theo’s Cozy Corner in the North End of Boston, reading my paper, listening to the inane banter of the daily gathering of old-timer, Italian men screaming at each other. Above the raucous din, I heard one of the veterans shouting about an explosion, while pointing to the Boston Marathon on TV. After the volume was turned up, we all witnessed the horrific events unfold.
After leaving Theo’s, I spent the next couple of hours glued to the TV with my co-workers in Downtown Boston, until I couldn’t take seeing the same videos and images over and over. I was disgusted, frightened, angry, and sick to my stomach. On Tuesday, I walked from the North End to the South End, witnessed the military camp on Boston Common, the throngs of reporters near the Public Garden and on Dartmouth street, and the beefed-up security everywhere. The city was reeling — somber, mournful, and eerily quiet. Without any arrests, there were more questions than answers, and we were drifting.
Today marked a turning point in the healing process for our city. President Obama visited Boston and attended an interfaith healing service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. After listening to the uplifting speeches today, hope is finally beginning to replace horror. I was so moved by the speeches given today, that I am on a mission to get the transcript and video of each one, post them here, and share my favorite excerpts from each. I’d also like to find a link with a video of the entire service. Every American should watch a video of the healing service in its entirety.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional links that you are aware of. This will be a fluid post, with ongoing updates. I’m grateful for your help.
For the full transcript of each speech, please click on the list of names below.
In my faith tradition, scripture teaches: “In every thing give thanks.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) That isn’t always easy to do. On Monday afternoon, I wasn’t feeling it. What I felt, what so many of us felt then, was shock and confusion and anger…
I’m thankful for the firefighters and police officers and EMTs who ran towards the blasts, not knowing whether the attack was over – and the volunteers and other civilians who ran to help right along side them…
I’m thankful for Mayor Menino, who started Monday morning frustrated he couldn’t be at the finish line this time, as he always is, and then late that afternoon checked himself out of the hospital to help his city, our city, face down this tragedy…
I’m thankful for the lives of Krystle and Lingzi and little Martin, and for the lives of the families who survive them, and for the lives of all the people hurt but who still woke up today with the hope of tomorrow…
And I am thankful, maybe most especially, for the countless numbers of people in this proud City and this storied Commonwealth who, in the aftermath of such senseless violence, let their first instinct be kindness. In a dark hour, so many of you showed so many of us that “darkness cannot drive out darkness,” as Dr. (Martin Luther) King said. “Only light can do that.”…
Massachusetts invented America. And America is not organized the way countries are usually organized. We are not organized around a common language or religion or even culture. We are organized around a handful of civic ideals. And we have defined those ideals, through time and through struggle, as equality, opportunity, freedom and fair play…
An attack on a civic ritual like the Marathon, especially on Patriots’ Day, is an attack on those values. And just as we cannot permit darkness and hate to triumph over our spiritual faith, so we must not permit darkness and hate to triumph over our civic faith. That cannot happen. And it will not.
(Excerpts to follow.)
Lastly, the section below is dedicated to all of the genuine, meaningful and thoughtful gestures and events across America and the world, in support of Boston. Again, please email any submissions you’d like to recommend. Thank you.
National Anthem Boston Garden
Rene Rancourt has been singing the National Anthem for the Boston Bruins for 37 years. On Wednesday night, the first Boston sporting event since the attack, Mr. Rancourt was happy to step aside and play director as the choir of Boston Garden fans performed the ritual for him. If these videos don’t move you, you have no soul.
Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service
Thanksgiving is, by far, one of my favorite days of the year. I treasure the time spent breaking bread with my sister, Colleen Conceison, her husband, Bob, their children, Bobby Jr., MK (Mary Kathryn), Chrissy, Paul, and Bridgett, Bob’s niece, Kara, and anyone else who joins us. Our post-meal discussion always evolves into an opportunity to share what we are thankful for as we reflect on the previous year.
This year, my 24-year-old niece, Chrissy, on break from her service with AmeriCorps, shared a story, and I requested permission to share it with all of you.
Prior to returning home for Thanksgiving, Chrissy had been working on disaster relief in New Jersey and New York following SuperStorm Sandy. I received the following email from Chrissy a few days later:
After working the night shift (7pm-7am) in one of the Long Island shelters, my two co-workers and I were spent. It was going on about day 4 of no shower so the idea of going to bed finally with no shower seemed disgusting.
Like an angel sent to us, a woman walked in the building wearing an Irish knit sweater. Donna was offering her home to anyone who wanted to shower. This woman was unlike any other “spontaneous volunteer” to come through our shelter. She is an RN at a local hospital and came with just her stethoscope wanting to help out the nurses. When she found out that no medical help was needed, she offered her home and a hot shower. She lived 5 minutes from the school and was affected by the storm, but she had her power back. She wanted to volunteer to give back to her own community.
We walked into her house and I saw Irish blessings all over, pictures of her children, pictures of her grandchildren, and a lot of trinkets. She kept saying to us, “Don’t worry girlfriends, I will hook you up.” She did just that. She gave us her towels, soap, shampoo, and a hot shower. Once my shower was over, I sat on her couch and just teared up with all sorts of emotions. She made us hot tea and I just sat and talked with her while the other two showered, and learned so much about her, her family, and then she asked about all of us.
We sat with her until we were ready to go back to the shelter. She walked us back and continued to help out in the shelter where she felt it was necessary. Before I went to bed I hugged her with eyes full of tears and she just said, “You’re doing a great job. Keep up the good work.” That little confidence booster from a random stranger meant more than anything.
I often think about Donna and the fact that she was so willing to open her house to 3 AmeriCorps members who were exhausted and hadn’t showered in days. She just wanted to help in any way she could, and decided opening her home was the best way to do it. She has taught me that random acts of kindness go a long way.
On Thursday, 12/13/12, Chrissy graduated from AmeriCorps and was chosen by her peers to speak at the commencement ceremony. Here is an excerpt of her speech from within her blog.
Today was graduation day… I had the honor of being emcee, or “Ameridictorian” as my friends called it, for the ceremony. This is my speech I submitted to get chosen to speak…
It is hard to put into words exactly what the experience in NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) has been like. The only couple of words that I can possibly think of would be, ‘life changing’.
We started on February 27th where we entered a world that immediately I thought was MTV’s The Real World. We were strangers, picked to be in a program where people stop living their real life and start living in the ‘Ameriworld’, a world where real clothes were a thing of the past, and khaki and gray or green became something you wore, and wore it “looking good” daily.
Training could not have prepared us for what we were about to embark upon for the whole experience. Once we were assigned our permanent teams, we set out for our spikes (spikes are sites away from the main campus where teams establish temporary living arrangements for up to two months). Each day we were faced with adversity and we persevered. Our team became a family, a family that nobody else in the world would understand why. Spending each day together, working, eating, laughing, cooking, and dancing are experiences that cannot even be explained. You wouldn’t get half of the stuff each collective team went through unless you were on the team. I am forever changed because of the 8 members of my team, other team members, other team leaders, and our staff.
This program has taught me that when you think that you can’t, you can, and you realize you can because of your teammates. This program has taught me that no matter what is going on in your life, you will survive with the help of your team. This program has taught me that friendship goes beyond Massachusetts. Friendship is now in Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, Delaware and every other state in the country.
Most importantly, this program has taught me that you have a family you are born into and a family you create for yourself. I can honestly say that I come from a large family, but now it has significantly grown because of this program. I would not change this experience, every tear, every laugh, every terrible singing and dancing session in the van, every fight, every ISP(Independent Service Projects), every home gutted, every trail blazed, every ride with Roe, every tire slashed, every glass block installed, every WPR (Weekly Progress Report), every piece of drywall installed, every sleeping situation and every day with my team and others, for anything. How do you sum up what I have experienced in NCCC into words? You can’t, you have to live it to understand.
I was so happy I got to address the Corps as emcee for the ceremony. It meant the world to me.
I have met some of the most amazing people in the last 10 months. I am forever changed by each and every person I have met in the last 10 months. I am so grateful I have a supportive family that allowed me to leave a full-time job making money, to be in a national community service volunteer program. I am so thankful for my best friends, 5 girls I can now NEVER live without. I am thankful for my team and the year we had together. The members of River Ten will forever hold a place in my heart.
Tonight is the last night in Vicksburg (MS), our little community. I remember the night before I left home, we all googled Vicksburg and I was more nervous because of what I saw, different things than Burlington (MA). Weird. Now, I am in love with our little city. The sunsets, the Mississippi river, Highway 61 Coffee, The Tomato Place, Biscuit Company, Duff’s, Roe’s Cab service, and especially the Southern Region Campus. You can’t really explain this to anyone. I love the south, and I am moving the second I find work down here.
As I reflect on the last 10 months, I am realizing I am a totally different person than I was in February. I am happier, more open-minded, more skilled, and my cooking is at it’s prime. I really am trying my best to think of a good way to sum up what I am feeling, and what I have experienced the last 10 months, but I am at a loss for words. This program has meant the world to me and I am so happy that I joined. I will forever be an AmeriCorps member, and I will try my hardest to “get things done” even outside of my “A” uniform…
…I am going to end this post with a quote that was read at graduation, but is one of my absolute favorites. I thought about it a lot while in the program, and it has helped me through some of my days where I wanted to quit.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss
Thank you, Donna, for exemplifying the importance of “spontaneous volunteerism”, and kindness.
Welcome home, Chrissy. Congratulations, and thank you for your tremendous service to our country. I am so proud of you, and love you very much.
Server Not Servant readers, please join the conversation, and share your experiences of how “spontaneous volunteers” have helped you with acts of kindness. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that can turn our world around and restore our faith in humans. Thank you.