Power Lunch to the People

It's an honor and pleasure to know Mr. Warren Buffett, a great philanthropist as well as the world's most sought-after oracle of financial wisdom. I hope I don't sound boastful when I say that I am also proud that when it comes to unconditional love, which is what we devote ourselves to here at GLIDE, Mr. Buffett has demonstrated his investment in unconditional love.

Seventeen years ago, Mr. Buffett's first wife, the compassionate angel and much missed Susan Buffett, who was then a member of our congregation, brought Warren to visit our diverse and all-inclusive community centered here in San Francisco's Tenderloin. Like so many others before and since, he was moved to join her and us in putting the concept of unconditional love into practice.

So this is what Susie Buffett decided they would do. Knowing that there are many people with means who would very much like to bend Warren Buffett's ear and listen to his advice, she proposed that they auction off a lunch meeting with Warren at Smith & Wollensky, a favorite New York steakhouse, and give the proceeds to GLIDE.

This simple but powerful idea has brought in, over the past 17 years, an astonishing $20 million to fund the many programs GLIDE has put in place for more than fifty years to help those who are most vulnerable and marginalized among us. (Let me add that Smith & Wollensky's founder, Alan Stillman, has generously offered to host the lunch and has contributed to the cause with an annual donation to GLIDE of at least $10,000.)

Warren's brainstorm idea was to engage with eBay for Charity in 2003, which provides us with a global platform. Mr. Buffett has invested his time, energy and reputation to do something for the thousands of people GLIDE serves -- many of them homeless or insecurely housed; many looking for a warm meal; some for childcare; others for shelter for the night or from an abusive relationship; some needing medical attention or help with recovery from addiction. Many people come to GLIDE seeking a place to belong, to be accepted unconditionally without judgment and welcomed just as they are.

In the end, of course, that place of belonging is what we all seek. And in Mr. Buffett's annual power lunch auction, which is now live on eBay.com/glide until close of auction at 7:30 pm PDT today, there is more than the directing of much-needed funds to critical services; there is a powerful message of inclusion, as he calls attention to the humanity of those we might otherwise overlook.

This is our idea of community, radically inclusive and unconditionally accepting, a place where the power of love materializes in transformed lives and, ultimately, a transformed society. It's worth recalling here that GLIDE's programs on behalf of the community started with a warm meal, back in the 1960s, as a potluck hosted by congregation members who brought what they had and shared it with people on the street.

Today, GLIDE's Daily Free Meals program serves upwards of 2000 meals each day. And because the folks that come to GLIDE share many of the same challenges, including poverty, substance abuse, physical and mental health concerns, criminal justice issues, unemployment, HIV/AIDS, and violence (including domestic violence), the Meals program also serves as a gateway to GLIDE's suite of comprehensive services. Every program is designed to meet people where they are, with compassion and respect, while supporting them on their journeys to stability and self-sufficiency--a journey that we find often begins with a warm meal.

Warren Buffett will tell you: That's a power lunch.

Reverend Cecil Williams is co-founder with Janice Mirikitani of the GLIDE Foundation.

For more information about the 17th GLIDE Annual eBay Auction for a Power Lunch with Warren Buffett, please contact GLIDE at (415) 674-6001, Buffett@Glide.org or visit ebay.com/glide. For more information about GLIDE please visit Glide.org.