Would Harry Chapin be proud?


If you’ve taken a few moments over the years to explore this web site, you may have seen that Harry Chapin is a personal favorite of mine… both for his work as a musician and as an example of trying to make the world a better place. In just a few days, the organization World Hunger Year (WHY, founded by Harry Chapin) will begin its annual Hungerthon efforts (actually, many efforts are already underway). You can learn more about it at the WHY web site. Here, I would like to take a few minutes to reflect and consider…

Would Harry Chapin be proud?

This year’s food drive was an overwhelming success, but we have just one problem and we’re going to address it. Next week we’re canceling all of our classes and we’re going to talk about what these families are going to eat next week.

~ Harry Chapin on asensibleeducation system

It’s been over twenty years since the world lost Harry Chapin, and it isn’t that far-fetched to believe that if he were alive today, he wouldn’t have let the arrival of a new millennium pass without making several comments on the state of the planet and the nature of man. So as Thanksgiving 2003 nears, would Chapin be proud of the way things are going?

On Tuesday, November 7, 2000, the United States of America held a national election to select a new president. In the 1996 presidential election, history was made when less than half of eligible Americans voted.

As a measure of apathy, it would appear that Chapin might have just cause for concern. After all, if a country can’t get half of its people to vote for what is acknowledged as “the leader of the free world,” than how can they be expected to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. As a group, it’s very difficult to look at the picture of mankind and find it to be motivated beyond personal interests and self-serving efforts.

In the song “I wonder what would happen to this world” Chapin asks the listener to picture a world where every individual tried to accomplish everything they were capable of achieving. At concerts, he often told his audience that there was a difference between the upper, middle and lower classes. He said that the upper class couldn’t be counted on for help because they didn’t want to spend their money. The lower class had too many issues to be worried about personally to offer any assistance to others. Chapin concludes that it is up to the people in the middle class to make the difference. But, in the end, what Chapin in his casual comments truly seems to be recognizing is, that beyond wealth, race, age, or any other defining classification, it is the individual and the contributions made to the world that makes the difference. Is the world better because this person is here than it would be if this person weren’t?

Ask any fan of Harry Chapin how they feel about him and his efforts and, though there may be several answers, one will clearly be heard more than all others combined. “I miss him.” Harry’s closet friends acknowledge repeatedly that he was generous with his time and commitments to a fault. And yet, people that loved Harry Chapin loved the fact that he was accessible, that he was genuine, and that he was true to his beliefs. Thousands of people attended his shows, knowing there would be preachy moments but also knowing that he cared. His legacy lives on in the continuing efforts of World Hunger Year, which he helped to found. And his legacy lives on in the efforts of individuals that, without the stage Chapin had to speak from, try to make the world a better place not just for themselves, but for all those around.

So take a few minutes and consider where you are right now. And, if you can, send a dollar to a local soup kitchen. Donate a blanket to a homeless shelter. Give a can to a food drive. Do something to make the world around just a little bit better than it was five minutes ago. It doesn’t take much effort to try, even once a year, to make Harry Chapin proud.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com