BY J. ARTHUR RATH, III – At this time of year I recall telling Campbell Soup people about hundreds of thousands of children who had “Soup for Supper” to
help the poor.

Several Bishops of the United Methodist Church asked me to arrange a meeting at Campbell Soup Company headquarters in Camden, New Jersey.  I am not a Methodist, but came up with a theme to help them fund projects alleviating discord in U.S. communities, they were happy about how things turned out.

I suggested “Move Together”, it focused on racism, ageism, and  poverty at the community level.  I grew up knowing about that in Hawaii, son of a Territory of Hawaii lady social worker.

I suggested something different for Methodist’s “Reconciliation Sunday– “Involve the kids:

“Suggest that Sunday School kids encourage families to have a “Soup For Supper Night” instead of a regular meal and put the “soup savings” into a mite box to bring to church.  Instead of supplying paper boxes let’s give the kids a plastic lid with a
coin slot.  They can place it over the empty soup can as an offering container.  Supply a paper label with this  “reconciliation symbol.” (We designed a converging hand with differing skin colors).  Allow space on the label for kids to draw their own interpretations about reconciliation.”

We supplied a slide show for Sunday School teachers that showed where funds were being allocated, some of it was pretty heavy stuff such as artificial limbs for Vietnam civilians injured in the War, domestic services for the elderly, educational programs in U.S. poverty zones, drug rehabilitation programs: All things aimed at roots of alienation, not scary for kids–it showed the power of change.

Kids bought into it. Now the Bishops wanted to tell Campbell “Why there may have been a sudden surge in canned soup sales!” The Bishops told them how many millions of Americans are Methodists!  I explained how many soup can labels Catholic churches ordered as well.  They blinked!

We’d worked with Catholic Bishops heading similar outreach programs. Two major faiths having the same “Emphasis Sunday” resulted in lots of publicity. This was “The Sixties,” a breakthrough for that time.  Catholics and Methodists shared the
soup can mite box idea and things took off.

Officials said December 26 would be a good time to stop by. This happened to be Saint Stephens Day, he was the first Christian martyr, the Bishops thought it was a fine day.

We told Campbell officials what may have contributed to a surge in canned soup sales.

Being a Sunday School alumnus of a Kaimuki Community Church in Hawaii, I recited some of the words of a song we sang.  It pretty well summed up children power put to work:

Little drops of water,
little grains of sand,
make the mighty ocean
and the beauteous land.

Bishops hadn’t come for a hand out.  They offered to extend their helping hands within Campbell’s hometown–a place where reconciliation might help.  Maybe the company might be interested in initiating a local project?

The soup people thought it a great idea, good community relations was something they liked.  It was as in the Sunday School song:

Little deeds of kindness,
little words of love…

Little seeds of mercy
sown by youthful hands…

Maybe they checked out the figures: During that Catholic and Methodist’s “Soup for Supper” emphasis kids may have been as successful in promoting Campbell’s as Donovan McNabb and his mother later were. But our idea didn’t cost Campbell’s a cent for promotion.

“Kid’s Outreach” was a happy time as in the words of a 19th Century Protestant song symbolic harvesting:

We shall come rejoicing,
Bringing in the sheaves.

This post-holiday reflection is a reminder of the power  of young people’s enthusiasm.  It conveys happy memories of a little church in Hawaii’s Kaimuki whose Sunday School memories extended across the sea.

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