September is here. The temperatures are going to be getting colder and the sun is going to be going to bed a little earlier each and every day. The excitement that has come from “back to school” time has turned into new and comfortable routines. Our weekends are going to be filled with football and the craze to create any food with pumpkin spice has hit full force.
All of these things hold some sort of special meaning for all of us, but there is something else that September means for the life of our community. It’s United Way season.
I feel like I am in a unique position when it comes to the United Way. At my previous workplace, I was able to work closely with the United Way in various roles, including leading the annual campaign one year as chairman. Then I found myself thrust into a new role as the Executive Director of an agency that is funded, in part, through the United Way. My position has allowed me to see how pivotal the United Way is in our community.
The United Way is important because it gives all of us a chance to be something bigger than what we are individually. So many times we allow those voices in our head to tell us that we are too weak or too small to make a difference. We convince ourselves that we don’t have enough time, effort, energy or resources to make this world a better place. The United Way is there to help expose what all those words really are — lies that we tell ourselves.
It’s important for all of us to remember that we were all taught in a school we didn’t build, we will all be buried in a grave that we don’t have to dig. We have a responsibility to not only ourselves, but we have a responsibility to others as well. And that is a difficult pill to swallow, it’s easy to feel that it’s too great or too awesome of a challenge to put ourselves forward to embrace.
I tend to believe one of the greatest tricks the devil ever pulled on humanity is to have us believe that we are destined to live our lives alone. We aren’t alone.
When life has beaten us down to the point where we feel that it can’t take it anymore or when we feel powerless to make a real and substantive change in this world, the United Way is there standing in gap. They are there to take people from where they are to where they can be.
The greatest challenge to all of us is this: are we willing to stand in that gap as well? Are we willing to challenge ourselves to reach out to those willing to help? Are we willing to give a hand to those that need us?
As divided and as hurt our world may seem, there are things that bind us.
I can tell you from my own experience, no one wants to see people live in poverty. No one wants to see a stranger live in misery. No one wants to see pain needlessly inflicted on another. In this line of work, there is a palpable sense that we all want to do what we can for each other. We realize that when we all do better, we all do better. And right now is your chance to do better.
Over the next few weeks, there will be events throughout our community, in our public spaces and in our workplaces encouraging us to be a part of something bigger than what we are. Your friends and neighbors are putting forward to call to help create strong non-profits and even stronger communities. We are going to encouraged to give what we can to our United Way to help make a better community and in turn, a better world.
I would encourage you to join those that are already in that gap; that gap between where people are and where people want to be. It’s a large space and there is room for you, you just need to take a small step to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.