In the final installment of How We Holiday, we share our community's gestures of goodwill—big or small, they're all meaningful.
When we talk about the holidays, it’s all about abundance—but that is not something that’s available to everyone. So I’ll volunteer at our local pantry and give out holiday foods, and I encourage other people to as well. My wife and I also take money we would’ve spent on gifts for each other and buy food for a homeless shelter. I don’t think there’s any need to reinvent the wheel; pretty much every big city or local community has a large food pantry where you can donate your time or money.
Cooking food to bring somewhere for people who might not have it is no different than bringing food to a potluck. There’s no need to make anything overly complicated—simple food is the best food. Think of stuff that can withstand being in the car for a little bit, or food that reheats well. Homemade food is always going to be appreciated. I think that incorporating some kind of gesture of mindfulness for your community and giving back in whatever way you can during the holidays is way more important than anything you put on your own table. Especially when the world feels the way it does, doing something tangible, being an active part of providing a meal for someone, gives you a real sense of human connection.
Julia Turshen is the author of Feed the Resistance and Small Victories.
I think if you're a baker, there's a kind of altruism that is built into you. No one can eat all of the things that they bake, so if you love to bake, you love to share; you love taking care of people.
After year two or year three of Milk Bar, when we had a big enough team that everyone wasn’t going to work every shift with me, I had to start putting into words the spirit and cultural identity that I was building. We like to bake and we like to feed people, but the deeper meaning of that is about bringing joy into someone’s life. Whether we do it through a cookie, or crack pie, or ice cream, we’re there to make a great day better, or make a bad day go away. Our job is to surprise people and to care about people; there’s a greater sense of purpose than: I clocked in, I did my checklist. It's not about, "How much did Milk Bar make today?" It's bigger than that. It's, "Did we have a positive impact in the world, in our community, amongst our team today? Was I a good person in the world today?" That's my measure of a good day.
Baltimore is an amazing charitable community. Being a big hotel restaurant name, charities often reach out to us to see if we’re interested in doing something—and we try to do as much as possible. No Kid Hungry, because it’s big in the chef world, is a charity that has been important to the restaurant community for a while now. I did the yearly culinary impact trip where they invite chefs to go see their programs in action. The second I got through with those two days made me realize that I wanted to help out however and whenever I can. And then during the holidays, we work with a group called Santa’s Helpers, where restaurants across the city cook turkeys and meals for less fortunate families who wouldn’t be able to have a holiday meal. About a week before Christmas, this group delivers turkeys to us, and we cook them and package them up and they pick them up on Christmas and deliver them to families.
I think it’s so important that we find some way each day to do good. I was walking down the street today, and I saw somebody had spilled food all over the ground and left the garbage all over the place. So I stopped, picked it up, and found a garbage can. It was just one teeny tiny thing, but it changed me: it continued to help me to commit to doing good. Nobody saw me do it, nobody gave me credit, but there must have been five hundred people that walked by that garbage. Think about what would happen if everyone were just to think, Today I’m going to do something as soon as I see something that needs to be done. One unselfish act. And if you get into practice of it, all of a sudden, just by practicing doing good, you get to do more good.