My name is Tim Whitney and I’m the author of Thanksgiving at the Inn and the founder of A Play For Food.
Both of these projects started with this simple question: What If?
Thanksgiving at the Inn, Bancroft Press- 2009
Back in 2004, I was reflecting on the specific lessons I wanted to impart on my two young daughters to help avoid some of life’s pitfalls that had ensnared me in the past and contemplating writing a young adult novel. My sense of urgency increased while going through a divorce.
I realized I would have less time with my two daughters and I wanted to ensure they understood I had some specific life lessons and beliefs that were important to me. I wanted to provide them with a foundation, something tangible, a story they could learn from, a book they could read, hold in their hands, and relate to. I also wanted to take a rough time and turn it into a positive event for all of us.
So like most writers, I began my project with asking the question:
- What if I disguised my life lessons in a cast of colorful and eclectic characters?
- What if I told a coming of age story about what is truly important in life?
- What if I wrapped the story around Thanksgiving so each and every year it would come back and touch their lives?
- What if I could use their hometown as the setting and reference familiar places which would help them connect?
I did not ask myself, what if I fail or what if no one will publish my book. It was not an option.
What I didn’t understand at the time was the magnitude of the impact the book would have on other people’s lives, from inspiring writers to tell their story to motivating people going through divorce to think about their actions and the needs of their children a little differently. The human spirit has such amazing strength when positively motivated. I am humbled when I receive emails from families who read the book together as a group every Thanksgiving. The kind words and ‘thank you’ emails are a far greater reward than a royalty check.
A Play For Food
As I did more book signings and public speaking engagements, time and time again, the eclectic characters came up in discussion. People connected with them in a way I only dreamed about and a plan began to evolve to bring them to life on the stage. Since the novel is a Thanksgiving story and most communities have a food drive during this time, I began asking the writer’s question yet again:
- What if I donated the script to anyone willing to put the play on with a food drive?
- What if other playwrights donated their scripts?
- What if I could create a website that would bring together theaters, playwrights, food drives and food pantries?
- What if we tracked the results and created a huge network of food drives?
- What if theaters started doing food drives with other plays and during other times of year?
I don’t ask myself, what if it fails or what if no one will put on A Play For Food. At some point you have to have faith that it will be successful and follow your heart.
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
A Play For Food begins with an act of kindness, whether it is a playwright volunteering a script, a theater, church or school producing a play, the audience participating in a food drive, the actors delivering each line for a purpose, or the food pantries which in turn volunteer to feed struggling families.
Our primary goal is to unite communities for an evening of theater combined with a food drive to help restock local food pantries. By participating in A Play For Food, you and your community can make a significant difference in the number of people local food pantries can serve during the holidays and throughout the year. With hunger in America (and throughout the world) reaching record levels, almost all of us have a friend, a neighbor or loved one that may be impacted.
After two years of hard work, sacrifice, and numerous setbacks, www.APlayForFood.org launched on October 15th, 2011 and became a reality. I hope it will inspire theaters, communities, actors, and playwrights to unite in putting on plays in combination with food drives all across America. Let my opening donation of 400# of food (400 meals) be the first of many.
While I originally planned to have just Thanksgiving at the Inn as the only play offering, upon reflection it just makes sense to have A Play For Food become something much bigger. A Play For Food can be any play, in any theater, in any community. There are no fees, no required donations, or monstrous hurdles. I simply ask that you share with me the results of the food drive so that I can track it on the site and hopefully inspire others with your act of kindness.
Perhaps the best advice I’ve received for A Play For Food came from Rev. William R. Campbell, S.J., friend and mentor. He is the President of my Alma mater, Cheverus High School, a Jesuit prep school in Portland, ME. He told me quite simply to ‘think big’. I hope you will join me in thinking big.
“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi
Tim Whitney is an author, playwright, entreprenuer, and consultant working Dallas, Texas. He is originally from South Portland, ME and graduated with a BS in Business Administration from Northeastern University and completed his MBA work at Western New England University.
He is an active competitive swimmer in US Masters' Swimming and loves hiking, camping and fishing with his daughters, Dominique and Gabrielle, who live in Whately, MA., the setting for Thanksgiving at the Inn.