Imagine six million people across the nation working together for one good thing.
On the sunny Sunday afternoon of May 25, 1986, we joined hands with strangers on Route 1 in Maryland to be part of the six-million-person human chain known as “Hands Across America.” We wore the t-shirts we received for donating $10 to end hunger in the United States. Swaying from side-to-side, singing “We Are the World,” made us feel like we were doing something to contribute to the cause.
Although we didn’t think it then, for those of us who returned home to make our regular nutritionally balanced dinner, our participation was all about us—our feelings, our Sunday afternoon outing, something to talk about with our friends.
Given our current days of reckoning around so many issues today—including hunger and what is euphemistically called food insecurity—I ask, “What did the raising of awareness and feelings of empathy in 1986 really do to reduce hunger in the United States in 2021?”
If we care about collective movements, we must assess and measure the long-term outcomes against our original goals. We must not participate in the heat of the moment and then return to the cocoon of our existence feeling that we have made a contribution to the cause.
Ask the question, “What did this raising of awareness and feelings of empathy really do to [fill in the blank]?”