The Beloved Community

Eyes of the Beholder

As I stand under the Olympic Rings and look down the hill to the beginning of the Hunger Walk/Run each year, it appears as if a sea of humanity – black and white, young and old, rich and poor, every faith tradition, political persuasion and point of view – are merged into a moment in time in support of a common purpose. It’s an impression that stays in my memory throughout the year. As Plato once said “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” For me there is nothing more beautiful than Hunger Walk Day.

With almost 20,000 walkers, there are many eyes both giving and receiving impressions.

The eyes of Michael DeCoursey, Hunger Walk/Run Project Manager, are always looking to ensure that everyone is safe and having fun; that the job is getting done and participants have a sense of fulfillment. Our volunteer team’s eyes are locked on the 300 volunteers it takes to pull off the day – do they know where they need to be and have the support they need? The eyes of event sponsors notice how their investment in this event is making a difference. The eyes of the faith community are wide open with the possibility of living out their beliefs. Where else can Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and others meet in a spirit of trust, mutual love and compassion?  The eyes of the benefiting charities are filled with pride as their teams arrive. Most important are the eyes of the walkers and runners who are looking to connect, have fun and share a meaningful experience.

Hope for Humanity

But my eyes – eyes that have seen this activity grow from a simple idea and a few hundred people in 1984 to almost 20,000 participants today – see a glimpse of “The Beloved Community.” It’s a term that was first coined in the early 20th Century by philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation. It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who popularized the term and invested it with a deeper meaning which has captured the imagination of people all over the world.

For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to nonviolence. Dr. King spoke of a type of love called “agape” which is embodying good will for all humanity. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. It is the love of God working in our lives. As he so eloquently stated, “it is the love that may well be the salvation of our civilization.”

He went on to say, “It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding and goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age.  It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”

A Moment in Time

In life, we yearn to experience transformational moments that positively change our consciousness. But we often miss the moment, thinking there is something bigger coming. We’re not fully aware it can happen at any time, on any day.  

If only for a few hours, the Hunger Walk/Run is a time and place where those moments can and do happen, where people come together to create something bigger than themselves. While we certainly measure success at the Hunger Walk/Run in dollars raised and participants present, we know the biggest success of this event is the people who come and foster a spirit of love, goodwill and reconciliation. It brings about that moment in time we all desire. It brings The Beloved Community into reality.

-Bill Bolling, Executive Director

This letter originally appeared in our Spring 2015 Foodsharing, the quarterly print newsletter of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. To see our latest issue or to sign up to receive future copies, please visit our Newsletters page.