Chocolate Is Sometimes More Than an Everyday Treat

I am writing this on the eve of Halloween, a day which is centered in large part around candy. The news just reported that the favorite candy among trick-or-treaters is Reese's peanut butter cups. Is anyone surprised by that? I am not--chocolate candy of any kind is one of my true loves, and I am not so old that I cannot remember the days when we would circle back and hit up the houses on the block that were giving away the good chocolate candy bars.

Now, as an adult, I consider Halloween the kickoff to all things chocolate as we cycle through the Halloween candy until Thanksgiving is over, and then begin our love affair with Christmas candy, cookies, and peppermint mochas.

Recently, however, I was reminded by a video that a friend emailed to me that chocolate--something we now consider a simple treat and not necessarily a luxury--has had an enormous impact on the world as we know it.

As with all things, a cursory review of history finds a Chicago connection--in this case, it is found in 1893, when Milton Hershey purchased a chocolate processing equipment at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Everyone today has likely eaten a Hershey bar, but I imagine some forget the role that Hershey played in World War II.

Hershey developed chocolate ration bars for our soldiers. Some people even attribute our success in World War II to Hershey, who created the special chocolate bar to provide our soldiers with necessary nutrients and the ability to withstand the tropical weather conditions in the South Pacific.

These chocolate bars were reportedly not the tasty treats we have come to associate with Hershey, but were described by some as tasting like soap. However, Hershey succeeded in his efforts and produced over 40 million bars for our serviceman (of course, other companies also produced chocolate rations and other food items for the service.)

These bars became prized possessions, whether one thought they tasted good or not.  Some soldiers gave their bars to starving European children as they swooped in to liberate Western Europe. For those children, the soldiers were heroes and their chocolate was a treasure--something that would help keep them alive.

These stories remind me, on a smaller scale, of my friend who lived on the near west side of Chicago in a gentrified condo situated across the street from a low-income housing complex. This friend recently moved to the west coast for a variety of reasons. Among the various anecdotal stories she shared with me to explain her growing frustration with life in Chicago, was a story about Halloween.

The neighborhood organized a special Halloween party/parade for their kids, held on the weekend nearest to actual Halloween. Everyone had candy and treats for the kiddos. All the while, the children in the low-income housing complex across the street were not included. On actual Halloween, many neighbors would not answer the door for the trick-or-treaters, most of which haled from the housing complex since they had not already celebrated the holiday like some of the kids across the street.

My friend, of course, did answer her door and gave every kid some chocolate candy. They were grateful and curious kids, likely unaware of the fact that most of the neighbors were purposely not answering the door.  Or, sadly, perhaps the older children were all too-aware that there was a separate Halloween held days before.

Regardless, like the malnourished children of war-torn Europe, we can only presume that, for some of these kids, the chocolate that my friend gave to them was one of the few things they had to eat that day.

This brings me back to my point--something as simple as a chocolate bar can have an unknown impact on those around us. It is easy to forget that things we might take for granted now are still luxuries for others, or lifesaving in some way.

I, myself, was reminded of this fact when I watched the video below earlier this week. This video reminded me of just how blessed I am today to consider chocolate an everyday food item located in its own aisle at the grocery store. It also reminded me that a kind act, big or small, can have a lifelong impact on someone else's journey on this planet.

More than a moving story: a true life lesson.Thank you Francine. #WhatMakesUsHUMAN

Posted by HUMAN on Friday, September 25, 2015

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