The long weekend after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday is a time of retail madness. But then the focus shifts in a way that touches the heart and the soul.
After the craziness of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” — days of in-store and online deals that kick off the biggest shopping season of the year — comes “Giving Tuesday.”
It’s a day when consumerism gives way to charity, when Americans are encouraged to donate their time and money to causes that matter.
“Giving Tuesday” is a social media phenomenon that began in 2012 and has spread across the globe, bringing together nonprofits, civic groups, businesses and individuals in a worldwide movement to help the less fortunate.
It’s a movement that is totally private sector based, with no government involvement. According to givingtuesday.org, $177 million was raised in 2016. This year’s total is on track to be even higher.
It seems our national drama and discord here in the United States has done nothing to dampen our charitable spirit. A new survey by the economic experts at bankrate.com, shows 96 percent of Americans either have made or will make a charitable donation by the end of 2017. One in five polled also said their contributions will be larger than last year.
We all do our part — whether it is donating through a house of worship, volunteering at a shelter for the homeless, or tutoring kids at a local school. But there are some of us who go beyond the norm and whose stories are inspirational both on Giving Tuesday and throughout the year.
Need proof? Look no further than Jose Andres.
Andres is a celebrity chef who owns a bunch of popular restaurants here in DC. In 2013, 23 years after he arrived in this country from his native Spain, Chef Jose tweeted this:
“People of America! 4 hours ago my wife and I became AMERICAN CITIZENS. . . Thanks to all for being part of our world!”
He took the oath at a time when the nation was embroiled — as it still is — in a contentious debate over immigration. Speaking to the Washington Post shortly after the ceremony, Andres said he planned a big celebration — an ongoing “party” with an important message:
“I need to make sure everybody understands that many immigrants like me — given the right opportunity like I was given — we can have a positive impact in this amazing country.”
And so he has.
Andres has been a humanitarian whirlwind, mobilizing colleagues in the restaurant industry to help feed the hungry, and provide new hope for the disadvantaged and the poor.
After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he founded a group called World Central Kitchen, which has grown into a network of more than 60 chefs who are determined to use food as an agent of change.
Their focus is not just on meeting emergency needs, but also on creating self-sufficiency in parts of the world where hunger and poverty are far too common.
Andres and his team work in big ways and small. They help build school kitchens and community gardens, provide training in culinary job skills and cooking safety, and offer support to local fishermen, farmers and even beekeepers.
In Nicaragua, they are working with a coffee co-op… in the Dominican Republic, they are helping the women of a mountain community market their local honey… and here in D.C. they are training unemployed military veterans to be master bakers at their “Dog Tag Bakery.”
In September came, perhaps, their biggest challenge of all.
Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, knocking out power, blocking roads and destroying whole neighborhoods. World Central Kitchen was among the first to respond, setting up feeding centers that so far have provided roughly three million meals.
When government help lagged behind, Andres and his #ChefsForPuertoRico filled the gap and then some — setting up satellite kitchens that served all of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities.
Chef Jose was there on Thanksgiving, far from the home he shares with his wife and daughters in the Washington D.C. suburbs. In a holiday message on his website, he wrote:
“We have so much to be grateful for — the selfless dedication put in to feed the island in its time of need; the many, many donations by people all around the world; the support shown by friends near and far.”
In this season of giving, this American-by-choice embodies all that is good about this country: innovation, love of craft, and an ongoing commitment to help others.
Jose Andres, we need more like you.
You are a true American treasure.