The flooding in Colorado not only cleared basements, houses and communities, but it also cleared minds. In the face of losing everything, as you watch friends' homes literally collapse, you have complete clarity about what really matters. And it is usually not "stuff."
So the last week had been an emotional one - staying strong for the kids, for each other, friends, our community. Allaying concerns of the children as well as of those who were checking in. There was a very deep concern, on so many levels, as the flood waters continued to wreak havoc.
There really had been no time to process it.
Until I got on a plane to Portland early Friday morning.
Driving to the airport, the sunrise was so stunning that it took my breath away. One of those moments when, without realizing it, you let out an audible "wow." It was so beautiful, especially in light of the devastation we had just seen.
I was struck by the co-existence of both the destruction and the beauty.
Maybe that set the tone for the day, I don't know. But when I sat down on the plane, it was as if every feeling, every ounce of work, keeping-it-together-ness struck like a tsunami, and the exhaustion hit. And so did the emotions. I was flooded once again by what really matters in this life, family, friends that I love, time together.
Arriving in Portland, I was unsure what to expect, I had not presented there before and was to be part of a panel addressing transparency in our food system. The panelists included a global executive from one of the world's largest natural food retailers, a CEO from one of the world's largest organic food companies, and a woman who had worked on political campaigns ranging from presidencies to an initiative currently in place in Washington state.
I wondered who would show up. When I first began addressing audiences about this issue, few people did. "Handfuls" might be a generous term. And there was always a stereotype of the person that did.
But as people began flooding into the room last night, there was something different. They did not fit the profile of any one stereotype. They were moms with daughters, twenty somethings with parents, thirty somethings, grandparents, and so many more. If I had to give them any label, it would be that they were families. And it was standing room only.
And as we each introduced ourselves, you could feel them lean in, grab a daughter's knee, bring a child to their lap. It is in that moment that you realize just how precious this issue is to so many.
As I shared data about the rates of cancer, diabetes, allergies, autism, ADHD and asthma, they leaned in further, and I said, "There is not a family in this country that isn't impacted by one of these conditions" and heads nodded.
That is so much for us to carry, as families, as a country.
And as the event continued, the food execs shared their insight and experience, some having devoted their entire lives to ensuring that we have clean, unpolluted food available. To listen to that, to hear of someone starting into this the same year that I was born is profoundly humbling. If they had not fought to preserve the integrity of our food, what choice would we have today?
And after an hour and a half of discussion, of being challenged by members in the audience who represented the views of the chemical industry working to preserve the status quo, that their products should be allowed to be pumped into our food supply without labels, we wrapped it up.
There is something so fundamentally powerful in protecting the lives of those that you love, whether from flood waters or from ingredients being flooded into our food supply. And it is together, through dialogue, courage and dedication, that we can create a food system that feeds not only the health of shareholders, but also the health of the 300 million stakeholders consuming it.
There are farmers and companies who have the knowledge, insight and expertise to help restore the integrity of our soil and of our farms. I have met them where they are in Iowa, Ohio and Kansas. There are parents, innovating, starting food companies, to address the nutritional needs of an entire generation that has been overfed and undernourished. There are legislators who deeply believe that we should know what is in the food we eat to help reign in health care costs. And there is love - love for our families, our friends and our country that can serve as a rocket fuel to create change.
Never underestimate our collective power to do that, to design a better food system, one in which clean and safe food is affordable to all Americans. With the talents, technology, resources and tools that are available to us today, and this love we have for our families and country, the opportunity in front of us is enormous...and a legacy waiting to happen.