Eleven years ago today, I flew into New York City. Absolutely no one knew who I was except for a handful of people who had reached out after reading my story in the paper. That story was meant to assassinate the messenger. Everything about it stung. I’d stayed up the night before it was scheduled to run, waiting for it to come out online. When it did, I couldn’t breathe. Then I cried.
Then, I sat down at my computer and began working on my website, knowing that the next morning, when the papers landed on doorsteps, that the website would be slammed with visitors. I made sure that the data was clearly and carefully laid out. I stripped out any emotion that was there, and at about 5:30am, I finally fell asleep until the kids woke at 7am.
Nothing could have prepared me for that day. By 8am, I had heard from every major publishing house, I think it was twelve in total. About eight different literary agents had reached out, and I suddenly found myself in the middle of something I knew nothing about. One of the agents, a woman named Carrie, was persistent. She was on the board of an organization called Healthy Child Healthy World, they focused on the harm pesticides cause children. It had launched after the founder’s daughter, Colette, had died at the age of five from cancer. There was another agent that kept calling, too, a mother of a young child with food allergies. I remember looking at my husband and saying, “I have no idea what I am doing here. There is an entire industry built around book publishing, and I am running totally blind. Who do I trust?” Carrie’s persistence paid off and her affiliation as a founding board member of Healthy Child Healthy World. She signed on as my literary agent.
And on February 13th, I flew into New York City around midnight to meet her. She’d left a key to her hotel room at the front desk in the lobby. If that right there didn’t signify the faith that was in this work from the start, I don’t know what else does. I let myself into the room, exhausted and scared, put on my PJs and got into bed. About 30 minutes later, she came in. And from that moment on, a lifelong friendships and true sisterhood was born.
The following day, she’d scheduled I don’t know how many meetings with different publishers. All household names, I had no idea what I was doing, I simply showed up and told them my story, what I’d learned about allergists working for Monsanto, the funding behind research and how the United States was the only developed country in the world to blindly introduce genetically engineered ingredients into its food system without a label.
Most of those meetings were with women. All of those meetings resulted in an anger and action that was palpable. But the reason that the anger was so palpable was because the love they had was so deep. By lunchtime the next day, we’d agreed to work with Random House. They wanted the manuscript in three months. It was Valentine’s Day 2008. And a love story was born.
I can not believe it has only been eleven years. It feels like a lifetime. I am a different person to the young mother of four who showed up in New York City that day. At the time, the work felt like such a curse, an enormous responsibility that weighed too much, that tried to break every relationship close to me, that led to a depression that was so deep. And in those early years, the friends that came around me became family.
Love is a rocket fuel. I say that time and time again, but it isn’t just the love that is internal, the love that we feel for our children, our loved ones, our families. Sometimes that love comes from the outside, from people who surround you and hold you up. People who light the way, become scaffolding around you so that you do not fall in your weakest hours. People that hold a mirror up to you, just by their incredible being, and say, “No excuses, you are so much more than you see. You are so powerful.” And they love you so much that you are able to find the strength and find a way.
Because of those friends, love has always been the most valuable resource in this work. It has taught me to be fearless. I also have learned to be as generous with love towards others as those friends were to me. It is the secret ingredient, the things that propels us forward, the thing that makes the impossible possible.
Eleven years in, we have created a beautiful and powerful movement. We are driving rapid change in our food system, and we are building a team that will not stop until it is done. What is the goal? It gets back to the mission of the mother who started the non-profit in memory of her daughter, it’s what every mother wants when she has a baby: a healthy child and a healthy world.
There is a lot that is wrong right now, the headlines remind us of that every day, but that also means that there is tremendous opportunity to make things right.
So do what you can, where you are with what you have. Start a book club, host a movie night, invite a speaker to your school, church or office. Use love. Because this is our love story to tell, about how we not only healed our children but we also healed the world. The time to do it is now.