Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Free Cheese!!

Not many things are better than free cheese (free beer notwithstanding). But imagine how good free cheese would be when you are out of a job, struggling to make your house payment, your kids need shoes, gas is over 4 bucks a gallon—basically, you are just about at the lowest, most difficult time in your life. I bet you'd really appreciate some free cheese then. And not only cheese, but milk, bread, butter, fruits and vegetables—oh, and clothes!—the stuff that's pretty much the base of the pyramid on Mr. Abraham Harold Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs [I knew that stuff I learned in college would come in handy someday!].

Today I had the unique opportunity to visit a place that makes sustenance products for destitute members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, or LDS for short. About 20 years ago, the LDS's dairy bought one of my company's machines for bottling fluid milk. After two decades of solid service, they had begun to wonder if it was performing as good as it should be, so they called us up for a machine audit and the next thing you know...I'm in Salt Lake City. I really didn't have a good idea what a church was doing owning a dairy, but after discovering their purpose, I was a little awed and very moved. Every single thing produced at this facility is given away to needy members. Every. Single. Thing. They bottle milk (chocolate too!), produce cheese and cottage cheese, and, in nearby facility, bread and other items. The people operating the plant are among the friendliest I have ever worked with too, and that's saying a lot, because dairy folks are generally some of the nicest people I've worked with in any industry.

I don't know a lot about the Church of LDS. I know some people have rather strong opinions of their institution. Heck, just last night I was reading a book about beer bars in Nauvoo, Illinios—the city on the Mississippi named by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement (also the place where Mr. Smith was charged with treason, imprisoned, and shot in 1844)—and the local conflict with the influx of teetotaling LDS residents who are affecting their businesses (supposedly), but I have a heck of a lot of respect for the way they take care of their own. It's a worldwide exemplary model. Visitors come from all of the world to visit this operation and learn how they do it. Every president since Reagan (except the current one) has visited the same dairy that I worked in today. All marvel at the self-sustaining nature of this organization and their ability to provide basic and effective services to their members.

Unfortunately for them (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), I'd be tough to convert, but I had a true and genuine respect for what I saw today. In this day, when it's easy to be sarcastic and full of cynicism, it was great to see people caring for those less fortunate and giving them the basic necessities to they need to get back on their feet.

Speaking of giving, I was also given a block of cheddar cheese and a book: Pure Religion - The Story of Church Welfare Since 1930. If there's anyway to convert me to anything, free cheese is a pretty good start!

And, after today, I may even just root for BYU in a football game next year!
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