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Smithfield Foods & The Human Rule

by Jeannie Weber, Executive Director (published previously in Review Atlas)


Most of us know about The Golden Rule, “Treat others the way in which you would like to be treated.” The Platinum Rule, which is something discussed in one of my more recent master’s classes, states, “Treat others the way in which THEY would like to be treated.” Believe it or not, there was an entire 4 hours focused on that concept, and it is certainly worth discussion. With this column; with all of the hateful rhetoric reported through the media in recent months, I would like to propose The Human Rule. 


The Human Rule actually combines the Golden and Platinum rules. It emphasizes a deeper empathy; not by assumption, but by listening to others and discovering more about them, and in turn, about ourselves. It is truly amazing what can happen when each one of us steps away from our own backgrounds and makes a conscious effort to appreciate and embrace another’s differences. Because The Human Rule excludes no one; makes no judgement based on the superficial, it is actually the easiest Rule to follow, because we are all Human. 


While the easiest to follow, it seems, The Human Rule is often the easiest to forget, particularly when we are wrapped up in our own typical and/or atypical aspects of life. 


Recently, I had another extraordinary week at Smithfield Foods, raising funds for United Way. After my first experience there last year, I was actually looking forward to going back again —- knowing that the Human Rule would be front and center. There is nothing more human than helping others. 


The first day we were on the kill floor asking for donations, an interpreter new to this campaign, Maria, turned to me after about 10 minutes and said, “We don’t really have to say anything except, ‘we need help,’ and everyone is helping us! This feels so good!” She was right. I saw the same thing happen last year. It was overwhelming. The Human Rule does not have to be explained to Smithfield employees, the majority of whom came from all over the world; many from unspeakable odds, to be in America. They found their way to Smithfield, and to our community, immensely grateful for something many of us take for granted: freedom and opportunity.


Even more fulfilling was the fact that after our campaign last year, I kept in contact with many of the interpreters that helped me for 6 days. In a sense, returning to Smithfield was like going to visit family. As we all worked together to reach the goal set for the year, we felt more comfortable to share stories. Stories for instance, like a couple who took a dangerous course; risking their lives to escape their home of Burma. I had read about it and seen stories on television, but when I heard the story from someone who was now a friend, I realized again why The Human Rule was so easy for him and so many others. I was also reminded of how much is gained from The Human Rule. 


Although Smithfield had serious damage from a fire recently, which created a lot of initial fears about sustaining hundreds of families, The Human Rule took over, and employees, $1 to $25 dollars a pay period at a time, raised more money for United Way than they ever had in history. The relief of being able to remain working; the relief supervisory staff had in knowing that they could continue quality distribution resulting from world-wide demand; made the Human Rule easy. 


What we do at United Way is all about The Human Rule. It is the reason why I love going to work every day. Some weeks, more than others, remind me of how significant our duty is to this community. So many community members that give, have needed, or know someone who has needed, one of our agencies to help them at some point in time. From the thousands at Smithfield, to the thousands in Warren County, it is an honor to be witness to The Human Rule.