I feel blessed to live in a rural community filled with almost fairytale-esque nature, which in the summertime is filled with the music of songbirds, the rustle of wildlife, the cool wind fluttering through the petals of wildflowers and casting their enchanting perfume in all directions. There are streams and ponds filled with fish, bountiful apple and grape orchards, brambled hills thick with summer berries, old logs crowded with edible mushrooms, hives dripping with sticky sweet honey, trees whose branches will soon be bent low with wild-growing nuts of every variety. It’s a bountiful wonderland that I feel often goes unappreciated and unseen in the rush of modern life.
I try to slow my family down and remind them of the things that truly matter. We love to gather for cookouts and swimming at our local lake, or hike back through the woods to splash in waterfalls. The trees and woodlands alone provide a cooling balm against the summer heat, often being 10 or 15 degrees cooler than the starkly exposed city streets and parking lots. I always feel myself give a little sigh of happiness when welcomed back into the green-gold embrace of the countryside.
Our gatherings are the perfect time to reconnect as a family and a community. There really isn’t anything like long, lazy afternoons with the sun slanting ever lower in the sky, sitting with friends and family gossiping about the events of the day, children racing by in small whirlwinds of laughter or sprawled on the grass playing games.
It’s a perfect time for everyone to show off food from their gardens and kitchens- crisp, refreshing salads, the juiciest red tomatoes that you will never find in a supermarket, ones that “taste like the dirt” as my father says. And they do! You can taste the time and the rich soil and the sun. Golden yellow cobs of corn, grilled right in the husk. New baked potatoes with translucent skin that falls right off. The snap of green beans, the sweetness of baby carrots, the heady mixture of garlic and thyme and raw scallions and more and..more! Fresh baked pies dripping with red-stained juice, bubbling with pure sugar. Eaten with sweating glasses of pure, cold milk.
It can be easy to forget, among all this abundance, how very many families are struggling and suffering. Food is one of the basic human needs and I’m always baffled when I here arguments against helping those in need. Even just from a selfish point of view, it’s hard for anyone going hungry to be a productive member of society. It follows that making sure everyone has enough to eat will only benefit society as a whole. I also very much believe it’s better, when possible to teach people how to produce and procure their own resources. It was the Spanish philosopher Maimonides who first said “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
In my community, we have an initiative that attempts to do just that, by providing free plants, seeds and information to help low-income families grow their own vegetable gardens. These are handed out at food pantries and churches throughout our city to anyone who needs them. This can be such a vital skill that can truly change lives. Also, in a world where it’s become cheaper to eat empty-calorie-filled fast food or junk food, it can be a fantastic way for families to acquire fresh produce and for children to learn to love nutritious foods.
Without this sort of knowledge, love of the land and the things that can be nurtured from it, I worry about the future world my babies and yours are facing. Will it be stripped of that elusive yet vital sense of awe and wonder?
That’s why I’m nominating our community initiative in the Huggies #UltraHug contest! Do you have a community project that is near and dear to your heart? You can enter too! From April 20th until June 25th, Huggies will be accepting all selfies of you and your baby with the hashtag #UltraHug, and featuring them in a collage on the campaign landing page. On July 6th, voting will begin to narrow down the 20 finalists to 10 winners who will win a $2,000 grant from Huggies for their nominated community initiative.
How do you enter? First, take a selfie of you and your baby and upload that selfie to Twitter or Instagram. Make sure to use the hashtag #UltraHug, In your post, make sure to include a text nomination (approximately 100 – 120 characters) including a name and/or identifying description of a community project in the US, which you would like to nominate.
If you do enter, I’d love to see your selfies and hear about the program you choose to nominate.