I believe in living in community with others. I believe that we are responsible for one another, that our actions shape our world, and I believe what we do matters.
I’ve worked in non-profit for over twenty-five years running programs designed to strengthen communities, such as food banks, mobile meals, programs for those who are homeless or have mental illness, and I’ve mentored new agencies. I love my career because it’s both creative and tangibly meaningful, but it can also be discouraging. No matter how much is accomplished, there is always more to do. It sometimes feels like a Sisyphus task. How do we work for positive and sustained change without becoming overwhelmed by what needs to be done?
I believe that the answer is to do what we can, if even in small ways, but to take positive action. As an ex-New Yorker I give blood every September 11. It’s a quiet, even contemplative thing to, and it can save lives. It’s not possible to predict the results of these acts. Small gestures can lay the ground work for larger change in unexpected ways.
Ten years ago I started a small agency providing free after school tutoring for children who were at risk of failing and needed additional academic support. The Kid’s Center began in a school cafeteria serving 25 children. When I moved out of the area three years later I hoped the program would thrive but I knew that the agency’s future would not be up to me. A decade later the agency still exists, but is no longer The Kids Center. It is now called The 4 Counties Project and it serves hundreds of children throughout Central Illinois. They just bought a school to house the program. I would love to say that this is my legacy. I would love to say that I made this happen. But I didn’t. Others came and took what I began and made something lasting and wonderful with it.
And I believe that this is the key to living in community with others. If we do what we can, when we can, we won’t be overwhelmed by what needs to be done. And we can accomplish great things. There is power and grace in our small acts, and the ability to affect real change. Small differences may be all we can accomplish, but I believe it is how community is built and sustained.
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