Monthly Archives: June 2014

What’s for Lunch?

My hometown recently hosted the best golfers in the world for a PGA (Professional Golf Association) tournament. The tournament has been a huge part of our community for over 30 years and is an economic boom for the town. All of the hotel rooms are filled, restaurants are packed every evening and tourism dollars are spent on merchandise, local attractions and at late night watering holes. The event spans an entire week but the main attraction are the four rounds of competitive golf from Thursday to Sunday. The weekend days (Saturday and Sunday) are more of a laid back crowd; friends hanging out, enjoying the sunshine and having a good time. While these groups also attend the Thursday and Friday sessions, a large portion of the crowd on those days are there “on business”. It’s an environment filled with sales people entertaining their contacts and hospitality areas hosting and saying thank you to their customers. It really is a “win-win” situation for businesses and clients.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend this year’s tournament on both Thursday and Sunday. As predicted, the Sunday session was nice and laid back. I went out with my wife and we basked in the sun, had a beverage and relaxed on a nice, almost summer afternoon. I attended the Thursday session with a friend of mine, who also was meeting up with one of his sales associates and one of his clients. I was just happy to be along for the ride. My original plan for Thursday was for me to also be hosting some business associates but unfortunately they could not make it in town that day. And in hindsight, I’m kind of glad that things worked out as they did. Not because I didn’t want to meet with these associates and discuss the exciting opportunities that we have been working on but because I would have been embarrassed when it came time for that day’s lunch. You see, one of the associates is a Celiac and the gluten free offerings on the golf course and hospitality areas were slim to none.

 

Mem MenuIt’s a topic that I’ve been on my soapbox about before: gluten free offerings at major sporting and community events. I understand that your main customer at these events is a non-allergy, regular diet eating individual with deep pockets. But there is a segment of the population who have allergies and auto-immune responses that are being excluded. Should I have had the opportunity to host my business associate that day, I would have pre-planned (much as I do with Cam) and we would have had gone to lunch someplace outside of the golf course. My money would have walked away with me, to a place that I knew was safe and where options were plentiful. It would have certainly bested the trail mix, banana and water that I would have been limited to by the event’s concessions. I have also had the opportunity over the years to visit many hospitality areas during the tournament. These events are usually catered and have more of a possibility to provide gluten free offerings. But for Celiac’s, buffet lines are a cringe-inducing invitation to cross-contamination.

Situations such as these make me wonder what things will be like for Cam when he is older and out there as a young professional. Will all aspects of the food service community be caught up with the revolution towards clean eating? Will he be able to feel confident in getting a gluten free offering at a ball game with clients? Will he be able to have a non-awkward business lunch? The industry is trending that way but we need to continue to promote awareness and hope that our requests are answered and not ignored.

 

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Pay It Forward

ForwardI first heard the phrase “Pay it Forward” during my college years at The Ohio State University. The words are etched into the gigantic stone facade that is on the south side of the cavernous, horseshoe-shaped structure known as Ohio Stadium. The stadium hosts 105,000 lunatics people on seven or eight Saturdays in the fall for Buckeye football games and has seen legendary players and coaches take its field over the past 92 years. One of those coaches was the legendary, and controversial, Woody Hayes. Woody was a war historian and when he put his plans together for a game, it was as if he were emulating General Patton or MacArthur. His temper was notorious and eventually cost him his job when he made the unforgivable decision to strike an opposing team’s player. During his retirement, Woody softened with age and, from what I have read, became much more of a philosophizer than ruthless tactician. But even in his final years, Woody still knew how to give the big speech. He was asked to provide the commencement address at Ohio State’s graduation ceremonies in 1986. He told the graduates that day that “you can never pay back, you can always pay forward”. I did a Wiki search on this phrase and it’s origin is debated. Benjamin Franklin spoke of the concept in the late 1700’s, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of it in the mid 1800’s and Lily Hardy Hammond used it in a book in 1916. My memory is of Woody saying it, accurately or not, when I was 13 years old; the age that Cam is now. In 1997, Ohio State hosted its first Community Commitment event which eventually became their Pay it Forward program. The Pay it Forward vision is to groom Ohio State graduates to have a passion and knowledge for being active citizens in their communities.  During my Google search for the origins of the phrase, I was amazed at how many Pay it Forward programs there are in existence. How wonderful it is to see that there are so many communities that want to give rather than to receive.

Pay it Forward is not a concept that needs to stay within the confines of a charitable organization or a corporate fundraiser. It can be even more special when done on an individual level; for your own satisfaction of helping out a fellow person and not feeling the need to be recognized for doing so. A wonderful example of this was posted by one of my wife’s good friends on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. It was her dad’s birthday and rather than bombarding his wall with posts of Happy Birthday or sending material gifts, she asked everyone who knew him to “pay it forward”. She suggested things such as paying for the car behind you in a drive-thru line or leaving a dollar bill in a returned library book. You then could post what you did on his Facebook page, as your gift to him. The responses were tremendous and truly showed that compassion, while often hidden, can still exist.

In the gluten free and Celiac community, we have gained so much from other people in a short nine months. From the wonderful doctor who diagnosed Cam and treated him with the utmost respect to the connections that I have made through Twitter and other social media outlets, care and kindness have come with advice and encouragement from numerous people with the biggest hearts. My wife and I recently had an opportunity to return the favor and “pay it forward” ourselves. We recently learned that the teenage daughter of one of our acquaintance friends was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. We know this family through other friends, speak with them at gatherings and our kids go to the same school as their two youngest. When we discovered that their oldest was diagnosed with the same thing that Cam has, we didn’t think twice about reaching out to them. The day after we heard the news, we took a package of fresh baked buttermilk biscuits over to their home. My wife then went back a couple of weeks later and shared the recipes that we had found to be successful, discussed the best ways to keep their home clean of cross-contamination and even cooked a fresh batch of biscuits in their kitchen. Last night, we dropped off a section of freshly baked sandwich bread and a nice portion of homemade gluten free chocolate cake. Again, we did so without hesitation.

We know how hard the first year is for the newly diagnosed Celiac and their family. We have three months to go until Cam hits his first year anniversary and we still learn something new every week. But with each one of these discoveries comes a revelation; a recognition that people are out there to help us with their words, thoughts and generosity. Many may have been in the same situation that we were, that our friends are in now and that future diagnosed patients will soon be. They knew the overwhelming changes that we faced and provided us the words that helped us make it manageable. And now it’s our turn to pay it forward, to provide the insight and the experiences to help others. To help keep the ball rolling for education and advocacy. We do it not for recognition but because it is the right thing to do.