It’s safe to say that this has been an exciting day for me. I worked on NATURAL LOVE for nine months. I spent hours in front of my computer typing the first draft, weeks revising, and months agonizing about the story. And now, after such a long time, it’s here. The book is ready for readers.
People asked me along the way what I wanted to do on “release day”, and how I wanted to celebrate the book’s publication. I thought about this a lot. Maybe I could go to a spa. Or spend all day drinking wine and watching movies starring Brad Pitt and Jake Gyllenhaal. Or shop away the time at Nordstorm.
But none of that sounded like a good answer.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that we are going through tough times here in the USA. There are a lot of people who feel left behind, broken down, and forgotten. Plenty of people don’t have any hope.
I’ve been there before. I ‘ve been down dark roads. I’ve lost myself. I know what it means to feel scared. Isolated. Helpless. Hopeless.
But I’m not there right now.
I’ve been lucky in life, and I know it. Every day I wake up with a roof over my head and food in my belly. I make decisions that seem trivial, and I spend a stupid amount of time on things like our social schedule for the weekend and making sure I don’t repeat outfits too often at parties. I don’t worry if I am going to lose my house or if my job will go away. I know my family has enough money to survive.
When I came back to Cincinnati last year, I told my husband one of the things I wanted to do was invest more time in this community that I love. This city is my city and I love it (Ha! See those lyrics?). I wanted to make it better. I needed to make it better, as if my soul demanded it. That’s why I accepted a position on the Board of Trustees for Wesley Community Services this fall, why I am active member of the Junior League, and why I support Cooperative for Education, a Cincinnati based charity that helps students in Guatemala.
But that’s not enough for me, and it wasn’t enough on release day for NATURAL LOVE.
Wanting to do more, I called my friend Myrita, who is director of a small nonprofit called Gabriel’s Place. Located in the heart of Avondale, this small community kitchen does a lot of outreach to one of the toughest areas of Cincinnati, a place where people regularly witness shootings, often find themselves in a food desert, and where it is easy to feel left behind. I have visited Avondale in the past as a journalist, and it’s not always the happiest neighborhood. As a TV reporter, I have also covered fatal shootings just steps away from the doors of Gabriel’s Place. If there is a ever a place that needs some hope, it is Avondale.
So today, as my book went live across the world, I spent part of my time volunteering in the kitchen of Gabriel’s Place. Staffers there provide a community meal for Avondale residents every Tuesday, and it is free. This is a quality, chef prepared dinner focused on whole foods and organic ingredients, much of which is grown in the charity’s garden. Gabriel’s Place also teaches children about food prep in a junior chef program, and much more.
In short, it is more than a soup kitchen. It is a place where handouts are about hope.
Today, as the book became a reality, I found myself cutting lemons, slicing apples, and making simple syrup for tonight’s meal along with a crew of other volunteers from across the city. In the small kitchen of Gabriel’s Place, we made a meal that would make anyone proud. It was fun. Productive. Meaningful. Real.
In short, there was no place I’d rather be.