On this day in 2013, it was a Saturday, like any other. I got up and went to the park to share food with our friends, like we had for nearly seven years. My buddy Meredith White was in town and staying with us, so she went too.
When we got there, the cops were waiting on us, and told us that if we handed anyone any food, we would go to jail. I argued with the police, then had to tell a crowd of hungry people that we weren’t allowed to give them any food, but not to worry, because I would fix this.
Meanwhile, Meredith started taking pictures, (including this one, for which she never received any photo credit) and we posted them. We reached out to our community, and asked for help. And you responded. My God, how you responded. We shut down the city of Raleigh’s servers. We crashed their email. By Sunday night, the Mayor was telling the Press that this was “a misunderstanding”. By Monday I was speaking to CNN and Al Jazeera. Before the week was out, Time, NPR, and Fox were all on board as well.
And eventually, we won. We fixed it, just like I promised those people we would, that day in the park when I had to leave them hungry. The end result was the Oak City Outreach Center, where in the last two years, nearly 200,000 meals have been served.
I have written so much about those days, but the thing I remember this morning is how scared I was when it happened. Who was I to take on a City government and a Police Department? What had I gotten myself into? Maybe I should have just walked away that morning. Maybe we could have focused our efforts on other projects. But there were hungry people on the sidewalk that morning, waiting for me, and I had to turn them away.
There is a lot of talk about social media relationships not being real, but I tell you this – every single time someone shared our story, wrote a letter to the mayor or our city council, made a phone call, sent me a text of encouragement, I felt loved. And while I doubted my ability to pull this off, I had no doubt of the tremendous power of the love of the people who had our back.
So today, I remember both being tremendously scared and overwhelmed, but also being tremendously loved. And, when I think about it, that is where I live – alternating between fear and love. But those of you who know me shouldn’t be surprised that I am convinced that, in the end, love wins.