Confession No. 147 — Beef jerky says a lot about a person

One never truly knows when he might be reduced to questioning his own scruples. Such self-conviction was rare for me … until Hurricane Harvey virtually destroyed our home. 

A co-worker — the same guy who hung pictures in my office after a year of seeing them stacked on the counter — approached me this past week with his arms wide open.

‘I heard what happened to you and your family,’ he said as he welcomed my embrace. ‘Let me know when you begin to rebuild and I’ll come help.’

Having seen this man’s expert craftsmanship, I welcomed such an offer. Besides, I know him and like him.

‘How did y’all fare?’ I asked him.

‘Oh, we were flooded … living in a hotel. But the kids love it,’ he said with a forced smile.

Then, for the umpteenth time since Hurricane Harvey let loose over Houston, I was scrubbed and thoroughly rinsed in a bath of humility. That shower of abashment continued to flow upon my conscience … this time over a bag of beef jerky.

‘Ah, you picked up beef jerky,’ I said to my wife. ‘And it’s a big bag. Maybe I’ll get a few pieces before everyone eats it.’

‘No,’ she responded. ‘I picked that up at a donation center.’

And that’s all it took for me to dismiss myself to another room and cry. My emotions had suddenly wrapped around intertwined feelings of extreme gratitude and self-admonishment.

‘Someone really donated this big bag of beef jerky?’ I quizzed my wife after regaining my composure. ‘That’s a $15 bag of beef jerky.’

Why was I so ashamed? Truth is, I sunk to such a level because I can read my own mind. I know my memories. And they haunt me.

We are a family of service. But I — even as the person who urged us into such a life — might well be the weakest link. I’ve emceed the Jerry Lewis Telethon on local television; hosted Thanksgiving food drives on radio; placed countless food drive bags on door knobs; and even worked with my family serving Thanksgiving dinner to homeless people.

There’s plenty more on my résumé of service to others, but I feel that my rundown of shortchange negates all of it.

‘Catherine, do you realize that we’ve only ever donated our worst stuff to food drives?’ I asked her, rhetorically. ‘The expired crackers … the Bavarian kraut … the cream of onion soup.’

In fact, my wife has gone above and beyond much more than me. She’s put herself in potentially dangerous situations on multiple occasions — all due to the voice … that invisible angel on her right shoulder who affirmed her gut.

‘Don’t be down on yourself,’ she told me in an effort to squelch my self-contempt. ‘You care about people.’

I do. Truly.

But that bag of beef jerky helped me to realize that the great English philosopher Thomas Hobbes was at least partially right about the tendency of people to be egoistic — acting in such a way to mostly provide self-gratification.

Such has not always been my case, but even one episode is more than I want on my track record. Especially after experiencing the unfettered kindness and love of those people who came to our rescue during Hurricane Harvey. The co-worker, who is in a similar boat as us. And the person who decided that some unknown victims were worthy of a bag of beef jerky.

They — not me — are among the true servants in this world.


Want to receive notifications of my Confessions, Chronicles and recipes in your email? Just click here. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. Why not witness some of my Instagram antics too?






  1. Michele Phillips says:

    The “little things” do, indeed, often mean the most. Still thinking about you guys every single day. Sitting here with watery eyes after reading this, wishing I could do more… So thankful for things like beef jerky, and people like your neighbor and co-worker and your lovely Catherine who brighten your day. And thankful for people like you who brighten mine! Sending our love to you and your family, Adam! ❤

    • adamjholland says:

      I really appreciate your words, Michele. And I really can’t wait to start posting food pictures and recipes here again. 😉 I’m mentally exhausted.

      • Michele Phillips says:

        It’s your space… Do what you want and need to do with it. Right now, it seems like this space is helping with the (understandable!!) mental exhaustion that you’re feeling. And that’s a good thing. Take a break. Focus on you. The food (and your food friends) will be there when you’re ready! 🙂

        • adamjholland says:

          Writing has, no doubt, always been my outlet. Want to know me? Start at Confession No. 1 (which was actually a ‘pre’ confession) and work your way up. Some are funny. Some are sad. All of them are me. — I’m glad we became friends, Michele. And I appreciate your words more than you know. 🙂

  2. Love your heart. I tested up reading this. It’s harder to receive than give, and this experience will make you a more thoughtful giver.

  3. Gosh I still feel bad about donating those expired canned peaches many moons ago…. Hang in there Adam! xoxo

  4. I need to go back to confession one. I hadn’t thought it to be available. I started to tell you all the things you must be right now, but how can I really do that. I know that your a good person as is your wife. It’s your turn to be the ones surrounded by a big group hug of confidence building and encouragement.
    Enjoy the jerky!

    • adamjholland says:

      Ah, thanks Jill. Just click on the ‘Confessions’ link on the mast. It’ll take you there. I hope you are well. 🙂

  5. thiss is the one that brought tears to my eyes. You know how i feel about those in need………….and we all are once in a while. this is your first time so being new, your eyes have been opened to not only how many people give but what they give and then of course the delivery system through which donated items are dispursed. Soak it all in and then you will be able to do two things: The next time a person makes snide remarks aobut what kind of food a person in need should “be thankful for” – you will have a snappy comeback. And, there’s something that has been screaming at me lately about how this awful situation you are in right now is teaching you skills for something that is already ordained for you and Catherine………..I don’t know how or why but look for it. I have only ever said something like this to 3 other folks and I was right all three times…………so soak it all in buddy!

  6. Adam! Give yourself a break! All of us could have been more kind, thoughtful, giving, selfless, etc., etc., etc. in the past. You never know, in a year, in a month, tomorrow, even — you could be in a position to help someone tremendously. This experience is honing your sensitivity to that. And you DO deserve the help! I have always hated that phrase “the deserving poor,” because WHO among us is TRULY deserving? You help people because they need it. And it’s not always through money or canned goods, expired or not. You are helping people by allowing them to help you. And the giver and the receiver (you) will both be blessed. Love you & your posts. I’m so glad you’re writing about this. It fills my heart with gladness, to be corny about it. Take care.

Leave a Reply to adamjholland Cancel reply