I’ve promised many people I would write this article and I am finally sitting in my hotel room in Paris writing about the unlikely topic of charity work. Yes, charity work or philanthropy. Giving back. I am writing this here because it is times like these when we feel our most grateful, or at least I do. I am healthy, happy and have a few hours before I get on my Croisiere Dejeuner (Lunch cruise down the Siene river) and am thinking about the first charity work I did with my daughters to benefit the homeless.
On the night in question, we served dinner to the homeless at a church in Orinda, California. I am blessed to have a nice home, loving supportive people around me and the ability and abundance in my own life to help other people, but that is just what we see on the surface. What lies beneath all of that is that helping others is the one thing in life that helps us the most. It brings forth in our spirit all of the most important qualities. If done with a pure heart it can transform us. However, our intentions must be, well, more than good. Not just coming from a place where we make ourselves feel good by doing good, but because we truly desire to share our gifts, our time, and our money to help other people.
Recently, I’ve read that employers are also looking for the philanthropic among us. Which is a major philosophical realignment of years past. Below is a quote from my neighbor, David Obrand, in an interview with CBS News, Money Watch which illustrates this point of view.
Money Watch: What do you look for when you’re hiring?
David Obrand: We have a set of competencies we look for depending on roles but here are four we look for regardless: raw intellectual horsepower, a passion for what we do, a passion for customer success and a humility and work ethic. And then the fifth one, is the philanthropic aspect in a candidate’s personal life. We feel that people who are philanthropic — the fact that you have this notion that the world is bigger than just you, and you have a role to give back to the broader community, is a motto that grounds us and keeps us humble.
For the entire interview click here, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/4-questions-with-fuzebox-ceo-david-obrand/
And when you really think about it, if you are building a company and putting together teams, who really wants to work with someone who can only think of themselves and their own personal interests? Yes, the world is bigger than just ourselves and witnessing the suffering of others and trying to help does ground us and keep us humble.
On this first night my daughters, then 6 and 8, helped the homeless with their homework, tended the smaller children and served dinner. Up until this point they had no concept that anyone could be homeless. My youngest daughter, came running to me in the church kitchen and said, “Mommy, they are sleeping on the floor!” her eyes wide as saucers, and then she ran away to play with a little girl her own age. But, I could see her entire point of reference for the world had shifted in that moment. The pandoras box had opened and she understood that there are people who sleep on floors in churches because they have literally no where else to go.
Since that night my daughters and I have done countless hours of charity work through our church and then later though our National Charity League chapter, where I am currently in my second year as the V.P. of Philanthropy. We have made many, many new friends, had many amazing experiences, but what was so remarkable about that first night at the church was that a couple from Orinda had made the most gourmet of sauces for this group. They had used fresh organic tomatoes, boiled and pealed them and then pureed them with other vegetables. They used the lightest touch in the seasonings as they were afraid too much garlic would upset the stomaches of the younger children. I have never before or since tasted tomato sauce this good. Anywhere. And as much as I love to cook, I have never boiled and peeled my tomatoes and certainly not for a group of 80 people! The time and effort they put into this was remarkable. I lovingly heated up the sauce on the industrial stove and the couple cooked the pasta until it was perfectly al a dente. After serving the speghetti all of the kitchen help (volunteers) went and sat with the homeless and ate our delicious meal together. I talked to a woman who had a job and her daughter went to the local high school. She didn’t make enough money to pay her rent and had lost her apartment. She was living out of her car with her daughter and then when it got too cold she came to the shelter of the church. It was with much humility that I ate with her and talked with her.
I remember thinking of the cognitive dissonance of having this amazing dinner here, served on a paper plate, siting on a folding chair among the homeless. It was a gift to me to be there and to be able to instill in my children the precious lessons that night offered. If you are you up to the challenge of making this sauce the recipe below by Giada De Laurentiis will show you how it’s done.
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laureates
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (or 4 cups boiled, peeled and pureed fresh tomatoes – my note)
4 to 6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and simmer covered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors. Add half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce. If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.