A lesson from Hands Across America and Market Basket
On Sunday, May 25, 1986, Hands Across America took place. The idea was to have a line of people holding hands in a continuous line from New York to Los Angeles. While the line was incomplete, the sentiment was not broken. The purpose was to raise both money and awareness of hunger and homelessness in the United States. A ten dollar donation secured one’s place in line and a slightly larger donation earned one not just a place in line but also a book, shirt and certificate of participation. I lived in Massachusetts at the time. We were not part of the official chain. But I still contributed and still have the book and certificate. A song was written for the event with lyrics reminding us that “divided we fall, united we stand (so stand up)” and “the heart of a stranger beats the same as a friend”. The lyrics also called on us to “see those people over there” as our “sisters and brothers” and “when they need” us, we need to “be right there by their side.” We are still dealing with hunger and homelessness nearly thirty years later and fighting those who want to take even more away from those who have so little and need our help. But that moment in time taught us that we can come together and stand together and call attention to those who need us.
In July, 2014, another example of people standing together took place in northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. Market Basket is a New England grocery chain. The popular CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas was ousted and replaced by his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas. Market Basket employees protested “Artie T’s” departure and loyal customers shopped elsewhere. The Market Basket employees were willing to lose their jobs to fight for a CEO who cared about them, who provided them with good wages and good benefits and inspired a loyalty that knows no boundaries. This is what happens when a businessperson does the right thing for the right reasons and refuses to put profits over people. The employees and customers respond with the same care and concern. Ultimately, “Artie T” was re-instated as CEO, the employees returned to work and the customers returned to shop at their favorite Market Basket locations.
Why should an event like Hands Across America or a New England grocery store, its employees and customers matter to us? Because this is what happens when people join together, stand united and believe in a cause. This is what happens when people decide that they will not simply just accept what happens and go on because they can’t do anything about it. This is what happens, without violence or threats of violence, when people really care. This is how change begins. This is where hope begins. This how every good thing accomplished and/or achieved in this country began.