Monday, December 10, 2012

Hanukkah and Sandy

Once upon a time, perhaps about a month ago, in a makeshift kitchen in Rockaway, New York, Chef Lorence DuPage provided free meals for several hundred people who had lost their homes to Superstorm Sandy. Chef Lorence cooked all day, and well into the night, for several days in a row. He and his staff brought some food with them, then they worked with whatever food other volunteers provided them. Chef Lorence had lost *his* kitchen to Hurricane Katrina, seven years ago; so he knew what surviving a storm felt like. After almost a week, the area seemed to be getting back on its feet. Chef Lorence announced that his kitchen would be open for one more day. Then he invited several of the local leaders to attend a special dinner that next night. At that dinner, gathered around the picnic tables, one by one, the leaders praised Lorence and his entire staff. Then Lorence stood to speak. He directed his staff to fill the drinks around the table. Whether beer or coffee or water or something else, everyone’s drink was refilled. Chef Lorence announced, “Seven years ago, Katrina destroyed my kitchen. If it weren’t for these people–he gestured to his staff–I don’t know what I would have done. We didn’t have any power, and all our vehicles had been flooded. But the morning after the storm, all six of them showed up and we started cleaning up the restaurant and helping the people around us. So, please lift your glasses and toast the best kitchen crew in all of North America!” After everyone drank, he continued, “Now this next part is something I don’t tell to too many people. All through the clean-up, I kept expecting my phone to die. I only had the one battery, and we had to use it a *lot.* Every morning I expected to find the battery dead, but it kept working. For over a week, it was like the Energizer Bunny. We tracked down family, we found somebody with a working truck–we scrounged food to feed the whole neighborhood. Finally, the power came back on and about a day later I finally had to plug up the phone. So every year, on the anniversary of Katrina, I give thanks for that cell phone battery. To the miracle of Nokia!” Chef Lorence held up his glass, and poured some on the ground. Everyone drank to his story. Then he finished with, “And every year, the crew insists on taking a week off to go feed other people who have been hit with some kind of disaster. We are sorry that your homes have been flooded, but we are here to tell you: you can survive this, and come back stronger. Laissez les bon temps roulez!” This story is a fable, a modernized version of the classic Hanukkah tale. Yes, there were chefs and kitchen staffs who traveled from New Orleans to feed the Sandy survivors. As far as I know, none of them had miraculous phone batteries. But as my friend Craig says, “all stories are true–and some of them actually happened.” Stories are true in the way in which they are true. The story of Chef Lorence did not actually happen but it *is* true in the way it lifts up human resilience and generosity; and in the way it demonstrates our desire to mark the anniversaries of important events. Chag sameach! (original post, with links, at So May We Be)


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