Saving the World One Lasagna at a Time
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I’ve been a bit of a downer recently. Not so much in my personal day-to-day life where I continue to be the affable, rosy-eyed optimist everyone knows and loves, but rather here in TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less. Let’s face it- the world has become a crazy, contentious place the last couple of years and many of my columns over that period of time have reflected the topics that have mired us in acrimonious division, like a married couple that should have gotten divorced years ago but somehow convince themselves that fighting on a daily basis in front of the kids is somehow better for them than simply going our own separate ways. Be it protests over mask mandates or critical race theory or cancel culture or our near collapse into an authoritarian regime, these have been troubling times, and this column has focused on much of that intense conflict. In fact, when I heard a recent Zogby study that found that a plurality of Americans (46%) now believe that another Civil War is likely, I merely shrugged my shoulders and said, “They’re probably right.” Social media and other outlets can skew us towards a heightened perception of the ill will lurking right around the corner. But that doesn’t always mean that it’s telling the whole story.
As I scrolled through a Facebook group for Summit County locals the other day, I was taken back by an ad I saw posted in the forum. It was a post offering to cook anybody out in the community a lasagna. That’s it. No questions asked. No verification of need required. No judgment or political litmus test. No requirement for remuneration or even a request to pay it forward. Just someone out there selflessly wanting to make the world a better place for everyone one lasagna at a time.
I immediately stopped what I was doing and passed my phone over to my girlfriend so that she could see this small miracle in action.
“Yeah, I read about this the other day. It’s not just here in Summit County. I’m pretty sure it’s a national thing.”
Sure enough it is. Founded in 2020 by Rhiannon Menn as a reaction to how hard the pandemic was hitting some families (be it economically, medically, emotionally, or simply in terms of their time and energy), Lasagna Love is the ultimate Pay it Forward concept. Users go online and agree to make and deliver a lasagna to a family or individual who could use it. It’s just that simple. Folks do not need to give an explanation as to why they might need that kind of help right now because damn it, we could all use that kind of community love and assistance from time to time, and sometimes we just don’t want to give a reason. Maybe your girlfriend just broke up with you and you’ve been crying yourself to sleep each night instead of making yourself dinner. Have a lasagna. Maybe you lost your job and don’t know how you’ll feed your family this week. Have a lasagna. Or maybe you’re a bachelor of oh say about 50 with dashing good looks and a weekly column and your two kids are sick of Annie’s Mac ’N Cheese. Have a lasagna (and maybe a cocktail or two).
I immediately asked my girlfriend if she would be willing to help me. And by help me, I mean that I would be happy to do buy all the ingredients and deliver the lasagnas if she would be willing to cook them. Trust me- that has nothing to do with our respective genders but rather the fact that I may well be the Mac ’N Cheese dad from the previous paragraph. Getting a lasagna cooked by me isn’t a blessing; it’s a death sentence. Hers, on the other hand, are a divine inspiration. And sure enough, just a few days later, we got a text with our first request for a delivery.
John wrote to let us know that we was recovering from surgery for prostate cancer. And with that, my heart just sank into my chest with all the weight and gravity of a lead-filled ballon dropped from the Empire State Building. Turns out John is just a couple of years older than I am. Now, I would have happily delivered a lasagna to a bunch of stoner bro brahs chilling in their crib playing video games, but this was definitively different. This was an opportunity to genuinely serve someone in need, a chance to make the world a slightly better place one lasagna at a time.
These past couple of years have been tough with the divisions between us becoming more stark and disconcerting, leaving us with a bleak outlook on our own personal abilities to shape a more positive future amidst a world of conflict and chaos. We read the news on our phones or consume social media and think to ourselves, “Damn, the world has just gone completely fucking crazy right now.” It is easy to lose faith in our capacity to make an impact. But that despair is but an illusion because within our individual selves, we always retain the ability to make a difference, no matter how small that may seem in the face of discord and apathy.
As we sat around planning our next lasagna, my girlfriend started telling me about these community refrigerators that are now all the rage across the country. In 28 states, you can find one of 160 fridges located in public spaces where people can drop off donations of food they weren’t going to be able to use for anyone in the community to come and take at will, no questions asked. Are you kidding me? I love this idea! A good friend of mine Jim Ziolkowski runs an amazing organization called Build On which takes adolescents from at-risk communities here in the United States and brings them to third world countries to build much-needed community buildings like schools. The true impact on both sides of the ocean is transformational. Another friend of mine who reads this column on the regular helped start Shoulder-to-Shoulder, an organization which also takes American students to volunteer projects around the globe. The ideas and organizations are out there. Somehow while we have all been focused on the bitter bones of contention, they have persevered and opted to keep on keeping on- making the world a better place one refrigerator, one school, one lasagna at a time. Do the same, my friends. Keep on giving back to this world for it is always darkest right before the dawn. Or in the immortal words of Journey, “Don’t Stop Belivein’…..”
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com