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Simplicity is the best recipe…

My sisters and I all learned to cook from watching our mother.  The kitchen was the most popular room in our house.  It was, after all, where the food was.  Our mom had no written recipes, so the only way you learned what went into the marinara, meatballs, and chicken cacciatore was to observe.  Her measurements were precisely calculated in increments like “a handful,” “some,” and “what you think you need.”  Her recipes didn’t come from a book, they came from the heart.  And the two most important things I gained from her is that a) you can learn a lot just by watching and that b) it doesn’t take a lot of fancy ingredients to make a delicious meal.  I mean really, you can make almost anything taste good if you add tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil.

Here are a few “observations” for you to consider and comment on…

  • I had the pleasant task of being in San Diego last week to meet with the Boards of the National Association of Fraternal Insurance Counselors (NAFIC) and Fraternal Field Managers Association (FFMA). While there, I had a few minutes for a walk around Mission Bay and noticed that the vast majority (I’m talking 90 percent or more) of folks I encountered on the trail were plugged into headphones that were connected any manner of electronic devices. I confess, I had my BlackBerry with me and I sent a few emails during my 45-minute sojourn, but what amazed me was that on a beautiful day there was no interaction between people out for a leisurely walk – no smiles, no head nods, no greetings. Everyone was consumed with whatever was coming through their headphones. There was no personal connection! That’s a little disturbing. Bringing people together is one of the simple ingredients that makes fraternalism special. Despite all the electronic diversions available to us, I still think that the need to connect with and help others is primal. I know we need to reach the next generation of members through Facebook and Web-based networks, but I sincerely hope we never lose sight of the importance of unplugging and reconnecting with each other.
  • You know the best thing about the blizzard that shut down the East Coast this week? It helped to reduce the partisan rancor among members of Congress if only for a little while. Honestly, the past few months have seemed like trench warfare, with each side lobbing grenades at the other and anyone silly enough to raise his or her head getting shot at. The snowbound-driven silence certainly appealed to the vast majority of Americans who occupy the middle ground between the two camps – people who are looking for lawmakers to serve the country, not their party or ideology. May the drifts melt slowly.
  • We would all be able to do many more good works if people knew more about us, right? Check out this article from a recent edition of the Washington Post about an Internet-based effort to encourage Americans to volunteer by telling them about the good deeds of others. Thanks to Al Vargo of the William Penn Association for sending me the article. You can bet we’ll be looking into ways to get NFCA and its members involved in this effort. Your society might want to check it out, too.
  • And finally, how about those Texas societies? SPJST has received some wonderful media coverage of its efforts to create a memorial to the soldiers killed in the Fort Hood shooting in November 2009, and gained some valuable exposure to state and federal lawmakers. Talk about letting folks know about the good work we do! If you or your society is interested in contributing time, energy, or monetary support to this effort, please e-mail Hiram Dixon (hadixon2003@yahoo.com) or call him at (254) 231-7722 or (254) 773-1575 for details. SPJST has done a great job working with us to promote the Ft. Hood memorial garden – but we can’t promote what we don’t know about. In 2010, we want to get members of Congress to fraternal events in their home districts. Be sure to contact Elizabeth Snyder, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, at esnyder@nfcanet.org if you’d like to host a Congressman at your next fraternal event. And the Order of the Sons of Hermann has launched a new project called “Hugs from Home” that encouraged members and lodges across Texas to make donations, so that the organization can send “care packages” to our troops in Iran and Afghanistan. The Sons of Hermann are working with other charitable groups on this effort to maximize the impact of their members’ contributions and volunteer commitment and are promoting the project to the broader community through new stories in local papers where the society’s lodges are located. Well done, folks.

What are the ingredients in your recipe for success?  How is your society reaching out to younger members and getting them unplugged from the iPods and plugged into volunteer service?  What are you doing to spread the word about the good works you’re engaged in?  And what types of projects are you working on that support members of the military – both current service men and women and veterans?  I’d love to hear your stories.  Post them here…

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