Run Against Hunger
Be Not Afraid
Larry Austin Helps Keep
Making a Difference
Those Affected by
& Friends Plan
Concert in NYC
To Benefit WHYs
Letter to the Editor
WHY Hosts Free
Harry Chapin Weekend
to read previous
issues of Circle!
Chapin (photo by Steve Stout)
Because of Harry...
is a construct that is shaped in the present, and that is why to be responsible
in the present is the only way of taking serious responsibility for the
future. What is important is not the fulfillment of all ones dreams,
but the stubborn determination to continue dreaming.
Belli, The Country Under My Skin
by Susan Williams
was a dreamer. In 1981, in a little hamlet on the Hudson, I became swept
up in Harrys dream. It changed my life.
That was the year that Asbury Methodist Church in Croton-on-Hudson began
a Run Against Hunger. It was also the year Harry died. His record agent,
who lived in Croton, came to the race committee and asked that we make
the event a memorial to Harrys work to end hunger and poverty.
We did, and this October 16th on World Food Day, the Croton community
will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Harry Chapin Memorial Run Against
the Harry Chapin Run Against Hunger story, also
in this issue). Over $300,000 has been raised by a tiny community of people
who are the dreamers, like Harry.
Coming of age in America
For the past two years I have been hard at work on a memoir. Harrys
dream that ordinary people through love and joy can end hunger and poverty
- and my involvement in helping to establish the Run Against Hunger -
are central to my story. The following excerpt from my book describes
how Harrys work began to enter my own consciousness and take root:
In the spring of 1981 the pastor of our Methodist church asked me
to head up a project to raise money for hunger and poverty relief. I talked
to the wonderful group of friends I ran with, representing every faith
and philosophy including agnostics and atheists. They were professors,
business men and women, mothers, and artists. But we were all crazed about
running. One of them suggested a 10K road race for the town something
we had always dreamed about developing. The Croton Dam and the deeply
cut gorge on the Croton River provided a picturesque and challenging race
course. Luckily our pastor was a woman who was open to making this an
ecumenical event. She proposed to develop a race and call it the Run Against
Hunger and form the committee from the entire community.
At the time
I knew only a little about Harry. But, as I read about his life and the
benefit concerts he played, I was deeply affected. I read Pedagogy
of the Oppressed, Small Is Beautiful, Diet for a Small Planet, Food First,
and the writings of the National Council of Churches and United Nations
about root causes of hunger. I corresponded with the United Methodist
Committee on Relief, Oxfam, Bread for the World, World Hunger Year, the
Heifer Project as well as other groups working to solve the causes of
hunger at home and internationally.
Slowly I became more knowledgeable about how my own way of life was a
part of creating and sustaining hunger and poverty. I entered into a crucible
of conflicting values and ideas. By then my family was making more money.
We had moved to a gorgeous home and had all the comforts money could buy.
But, I now understood that the system that provides this wealth is also
a system that can result in poverty and injustice.
So many people I knew were firmly indoctrinated in the rationale that
many middle and upper class people in America use to defend a way of life:
the trickle-down theory of economics. By promoting wealth, everyone
benefits is the general idea. Yet, the steady increase in the economic
gap between rich and poor is still a fact in America. [The number of working
poor in the U.S. has reached an all time high in 2004. The top 10 percent
of Americans have a net worth of almost $900,000 while the bottom 20 percent
have a net worth of about $7,800 according to David K. Shipler in The
One outstanding day something inside of me broke free, and I became willing
to let go of trying to reconcile the conflict I felt with others who did
not share my view. My husband and I entertained customers in NYC at a
famous Italian restaurant which was located in lower Manhattan. That day
we drove through poor neighborhoods to get there. It was a hot day and
typically families were out on the stoops of their row houses to escape
the stifling heat inside. Their kids had opened the fire hydrants to get
There I was in our Mercedes in perfect comfort peering out at impoverished
people trapped in urban slums. Later we dropped hundreds of dollars on
a couple of bottles of wine and dined on a sumptuous meal costing hundreds
more. I could no longer dwell with the insanity these kinds of disparate
experiences caused in me. I felt it was morally wrong to continue to engage
in a lifestyle that I knew was part of the problems I felt compelled to
do something about. This was an epiphany for me.
A kind of fog began to lift as I could see the most basic idea of democracy:
the responsibility of individuals working together to affirm and work
for the rights of all members of society to life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness. This means that individuals possess the character and moral
standard to answer questions like How much is enough? and
What is my obligation to society for the abundance I may achieve?
~ Excerpt from Canned Peaches and White Flourę
Since then I have rambled far and wide and learned much more about the
nature of poverty in America. The working poor are the majority of people
who come to food banks not the homeless or indigent as popular
myth would have us think. They come reluctantly, painfully, for emergency
food when decisions between paying the rent and buying food have to be
made. The problem is being able to earn a living wage in America.
Williams and her daughter, Heather
Hunger Years focus on education and public policy reform is helping
create the solutions to hunger that Harry sought for much of his life.
At the time of his death he served as the Chairman of the Presidential
Commission on Poverty and Hunger in Carters Administration. A folksinger,
husband, father and good man
he went to Washington to see what he
As I find
you here again;
A thought runs through my mind;
Our love is like a circle;
Lets go round one more time.
Just like the lyrics for Harrys song, Circle,
Harry just keeps showing up in the most unexpected places. I am currently
the Staff Writer for the Community Food Bank, Inc. that serves 170,000
people in southern Arizona. One of our rural branch banks - Amado Community
Food Bank - received a Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award this year! So,
not only will I visit New York to attend the 25th Harry Chapin Run Against
Hunger in Croton, but I will also accompany Tony Bruno, manager of Amado,
to see him receive a WHY award on October 18th!
Wonders never cease. Since 1981, Ive tried to live my life by conviction
and like all humans I have not done so without flaw. But I live by my
own intent now, not by anothers drum. Look what Harry accomplished
in his short life! He left a legacy that reaches far and wide, and through
the work of his family, fans, and World Hunger Year, the American conscience
I know that because Harry changed mine.
a man tried
To take his time on earth
And prove before he died
What one mans life could be worth
I wonder what would happen to this world
- Harry Chapins lyrics
more of Susans writings, go to www.writeforchange.com.
for the Next Issue of Circle! on December 7