Who Writes a Prologue to a Blog Post? … Umm, Me.
A heads up to this beautiful community I have come to know and embrace. The next three posts are not ‘blog posts’—they are a polished rough draft of a speech.
I’m crowdsourcing and asking for your valuable input.
The speech isn’t about the book I’ve written for children, it’s about the messages within the book that I’m trying to highlight by spreading awareness. Years ago, these topics grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me until my teeth rattled and demanded I do something about them.
The book is a vehicle to address these topics with children. The speech is my outreach campaign to engage parents, educators, and activists who care about how food politics are aggressively influencing our health.
So, I’m asking you to read and comment. Help me make an impact. Tell me what works for you, what doesn’t, what you’d like to see more of, or what you feel detracts. Your opinions matter to me.
This is not a plea to purchase my book. This is an appeal to help me make a difference. If this isn’t your shtick, I promise your names will still be rattled off in my nightly prayers of Please let these folks win some lottery in life. The point is to take advantage of eager, willing voices and collective brain power.
Your thoughts mean a great deal to me. I want to carry them with me as I carry this message to others.
And now … Why I Wrote DEAR OPL.
I’m usually not one for eavesdropping—okay, who am I kidding? I’m a writer. I’m always listening in on conversations all around me. It’s a fountain-like source of creativity I regularly tap into. And it’s addictive. But it’s part of my job.
On this particular occasion—while I was working—I just happened to overhear a conversation that made me cringe. We were in Australia, and my then seven-year-old son was chatting with an Australian lad who was just a little bit older than him. The boy asked my son where he was from. I heard my son answer, “America.” The other boy’s response was, “Oh. Where the fat people live.”
I sat back and thought about that unflattering national slogan. It did not have a sexy ring to it.
I thought about a few other places that had slogans to capture the essence and beauty of what they had to offer.
Egypt: Where it all began.
Bahli: The islands of gods.
Disneyland: The happiest place on Earth.
And now …
America: Where the fat people live.
The more I thought about it, the more a few other slogans repeatedly popped into my head. Like this one:
McDonald’s: I’m lovin’ it.
It gave me a lot to chew on—excuse the pun—but it really had me thinking about how big ideas could be distilled down to a few simple words. And sometimes those words could leave a bad taste in your mouth.
But I like slogans. I am all about slogans—or catchphrases or mottos—whatever you want to call them. I surround myself with them because throughout my whole life I’ve found them to be effective.
In fact, here’s an example of just how powerful one became:
As I was growing up, studying classical music was a precise and strictly defined practice. There were rules and not much wiggle room for interpretation of any of them.
I remember as a teenager sitting at the piano with a friend of mine who had not studied classical, but was rather raised playing jazz and improv. We were very different musicians. One afternoon we tried to find a song that both of us could play together on the piano. It ended up being something I could read off sheet music and he improvised alongside.
When we’d finished the piece, he turned to me and said, “Okay, now don’t do it regular.” I didn’t know any other way but regular, and when I found out that’s what I was, I aimed to change it.
In fact, that became the slogan with which I raised my children. My children weren’t particularly thrilled with my ‘swim against the current’ motherly advice as it made them stick out in ways that would make most kids’ toes curl. Their complaining fell on deaf ears and was usually followed with that old parental pearl of It’ll build you some character!
When years ago I heard the highly acclaimed entrepreneur, Seth Godin, say, “Ordinary is boring,” I nearly leaped out of my skin. I wanted to rush to my children and point out that I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t trying to ruin their fun, I was simply trying to enrich their lives.
That phrase of Just Don’t Do It Regular became a theme song I was determined to sing when coaching my kids through countless situations as if I were some first draft version of Maria Von Trapp or a slightly more colorfully dressed adaptation of Mary Poppins. The last thing I wanted for them was a ‘go with the flow’ predictable experience. I wanted them to counteract the narrative of their generation. If they had something to say to the world, it would take words noteworthy and uncommon in order to be heard above the fray.
And people pay attention to noteworthy and uncommon. After that trip to Australia, it seemed like I repeatedly stumbled upon the same message directed at a growing swath of our planet’s population.
We are in trouble, people. We have a big fat problem on our hands … and hips and thighs and bellies.
I couldn’t ignore the message.
After slogging through a forest full of research articles and data authored and collected by the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and a compilation of all of Dave Letterman’s Top Ten lists, I realized that some of my sources were—although meticulously detailed and scientific—extremely dry and nearly impossible to swallow.
It’s as if the WHO and CDC embraced both Seth and McDonald’s mottos and made an unlikely lovechild tagline for themselves: We’re boring, and lovin’ it.
My guess is that neither of the big research and data collection agencies thought their articles could use any spicing up—with something like a massive neon lit memo—in order to hail the attention of the folks who were most desperately in need of reading it.
Extracting the main point message was easy though:
A shocking number of people are eating themselves to an early death. In particular, children.
I spent a lot of time looking around and asking the silent question, Does everyone know this? And then I spent a lot of time thinking it really shouldn’t be a silent question. And lastly I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I could take the message about our world’s growing epidemic of obesity and spread the word in a way that wouldn’t make people fall asleep with their eyes open.
To reach children, I wrote a book.
But for all of you, I’ve broken the message into three bite-sized portions of important information that I’ve gathered from myriad experts—aka folks far more clever than me—whom I’ve hunted down from all corners of this great round ball we live on. Those three points—the meat and marrow of this talk—are thus:
- WHAT WE EAT
- WHAT WE KNOW
- WHAT WE NEED TO DO
*I hope you’ll come back next week for part 2 of 3. And I hope you may consider offering your thoughts thus far.
Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.