From the earliest time I can remember, I was taught by my parents that we must all do what we can to ease the suffering of others. Like many of you, I am sure, I have memories of collecting pop bottles for the deposit, so I could put a few coins in the fold-up cardboard church bank that our church used to support its mission work. (My parents didn't believe in allowances - I always suspected it was because I had five brothers and sisters.) I recall going door-to-door in Wichita to collect for the March of Dimes before I was ten.
As I got older and went away to college, I was involved in blood drives. I still recall how proud I was that the students from little Ottawa (Kansas) University - enrollment 700 - donated more units of blood to the Red Cross than our mighty neighbor, Kansas University - enrollment 24,000.
So it was only natural that once I got out of school and got my first "real" job, I would contribute to United Way. After all, payroll deduction was an easy way to give, and when I began to fully appreciate the broad range of programs that United Way supported, I increased my giving level to make my support more meaningful.
I still feel an inner need to do what I can to help those who, by accident of birth, or poor decision-making are in greater need than I am. But somewhere along the line - and it's difficult to pinpoint exactly where - my reasons for helping began to undergo subtle changes. At some point, I began to take pride in the fact that the folks in my community care about their neighbors - the ones they don't know as well as the ones they do.
I WANT to be part of a community that is committed to doing whatever is necessary to help our children succeed as adults. I WANT to be part of a community that feels invested in the financial well-being of the entire community. And maybe that's what it means to have a sense of community - maybe that's the difference between having a place to live and being at home.
People have many different reasons for supporting the work of a given organization. Perhaps you benefitted from a Big Brother or Sister when you were young, or found solace at the Boys and Girls Club after school. Perhaps a family member benefitted from counseling services at LifeSpan or Catholic Charities. Perhaps your parents taught you to do whatever you could to ease the suffering of others.
Maybe, like me, you have come to value the fact that you live in a community where people look out for each other's kids, where neighbors care about the financial well-being of each other. If so, I hope you will be a part of United Way's work on behalf of children and families in Butler County. Please support our work for the common good by giving, by advocating and by volunteering.