Though earning over $2,000,0000 a year at the height of his career, Harry had little left to leave for his family when he suddenly and unexpectedly died in 1981.
By this time, even though he was one of the most popular musical artists of the decade, the rest of the band would often not show up for concerts—leaving Harry alone on stage performing for sold-out crowds with nothing but his voice, an acoustic guitar, and a few stories to share.
The band would often abandon Harry Chapin because of his “one for me, one for the other guy” philosophy, where every other concert he would donate all the money earned to give food to the hungry.
Harry saw hunger as an insult to the world and was driven to use his popularity and success as a platform to promote the belief that access to nutritious food is a human right and that hunger is a solvable problem in a world of abundance. For Harry, this wasn’t just a belief—it was the way he lived his life as an expression of his inner Being.
It’s been said that “if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live,” and if this is true then Harry Chapin was certainly a man fit to live—becoming a change-maker--looking...seeing a need—and with compassion taking action to do something about it.
The seeds of change Harry planted all those years ago still bloom today, decades later, even though his life was suddenly cut short one warm afternoon in 1981. Driving along the Long Island Expressway on his way to perform a benefit concert, Harry’s car collided with a semi-trailer truck, causing a fatal accident that ended his life abruptly at the age of 38.
Though his life was short, Harry Chapin used his time on Earth to “prove before he died what one man's life could be worth.” For nearly a half a century, the nonprofit he co-founded, WhyHunger, has grown into a global initiative providing access to nutritious food to the hungry and education and resources to communities—while also working to change the systems, policies, and institutions that perpetuate poverty and hunger.
Harry Chapin is truly a worthy example of a person who had clarity of purpose, serving as a guiding light to outwardly express his inner values in all that he did.
What’s your guiding light? And how are you honoring this light in all that you do?
Jonas Cain, M.Ed. is a storyteller, magician, musician, and facilitator of fascination on a mission to help you experience abiding joy.