On my office bulletin board, between an autographed picture of Hugh Jackman and the Sbarro delivery menu, I keep a parable that was given to me many years ago:
While walking along a beach, a man saw someone in the distance picking something up and then gently throwing it into the ocean.
As he came closer, he saw thousands of starfish the tide had thrown onto the beach. Unable to return to the ocean during low tide, the starfish were dying. He observed a young man picking up the starfish one by one and throwing them back into the water.
After watching the seemingly futile effort, the observer said, “There must be thousands of starfish on this beach. It would be impossible for you to get to all of them. There are simply too many. You can’t possibly save enough to make a difference.”
The young man smiled as he continued to pick up another starfish and toss it back into the ocean.
“It made a difference to that one,” he replied.
Our country has been battered by a series of punishing economic events that have been most devastating to the weakest among us. Since last spring, Broadway Cares has seen a 35% increase in emergency funding requests as inflation wreaks havoc on our grantees and the people they serve. At the same time, many corporate and foundation donors have cut back or frozen gifts at past levels – a punch in the gut to The Actors Fund, which so dutifully serves us all in the entertainment industry, as well as to hundreds of organizations providing meal delivery services whose clients count on us for support every year.
I hope as we move forward into 2009 that each of you, in individual ways and through collective efforts, will want to continue your commitment to join BC/EFA in reaching out to people in and out of “the business” who unexpectedly find themselves in crisis, or are trying to provide for themselves and their families while facing the challenges of diminished resources, job loss and, most distressingly, little or no healthcare.
For all of our efforts, we cannot magically “fix” the economy or create national healthcare. But I know we can – and have – made substantial differences in the lives of some people you know and many more you never will.
I assure you, your efforts have saved lives. Your generosity has kept families – by every definition of that word – together, and allowed folks to pick themselves up from unfortunate or terrible circumstances and start anew, with strength and dignity. Many then turn around and offer a hand to someone else who has fallen or stumbled along the way. I’m proud to be in a business filled with talented, caring individuals so eager to help.
Undoubtedly, we are headed for some rough waters. But I am cautiously hopeful that together we will – as we have before – survive this riptide and ride out whatever comes at us. Changed, of course, but with our spirits intact to see another day; to attend another show, or delight another audience, and… dare I say it… to band together in the years ahead for more fabulous performances and creative events, which will raise the funds that make it possible for us to continue our work and reach even more people in this economic climate.
In this newsletter, you can read about the Actors Fund Work Program (AFWP), a unique project of The Actors Fund sponsored by BC/EFA, which was created for theater professionals who have decided to change professions or create a parallel profession based on their needs. The AFWP helps prepare clients with the guidance, knowledge, support and training they need in a very difficult job market and the number of people who have come to rely on these services has nearlytripled in the past year.
For 21 years, BC/EFA – you and I together – have made a real difference in so many lives. In the years to come, we have an opportunity to continue on a path of progress to help many more – one signed poster, one appeal, one backstage tour, one bucket contribution, onestarfish – at a time.
I hope you will stay on the journey. It promises to be unlike any we have seen before. And although it’s a daunting challenge, we are just like the young man on the beach.
Every time I speak to a performer living with HIV/AIDS or one who faces the challenges of injury or illness with substandard or no healthcare; a lighting designer or musician who gets a flu shot or a mammogram at the Al Hirschfeld Free Clinic; a dancer, learning to teach English to speakers of other languages through retraining at the AFWP, or a child who will have a better dinner tonight because of the food available at one of the many food pantries we fund, I say to myself:
“We made a difference to that one.”
As you can too, for you have made it all possible. Thank you.