Best-selling author and consultant on high performance human achievement Denis Waitley suggests that there are two primary choices in life — we can accept conditions as they exist or accept the responsibility for changing them.
As we look around our community, it might be easy to get discouraged by the things we see or have experienced in recent years: public corruption, an increase in violent crimes, dismal economic growth and high unemployment rates, skyrocketing health care costs, mounting frustration with government, high poverty rates (especially among children), increased social service need and the list goes on.
For some, the picture can be dark, bleak and discouraging. Yet, for others, and I am in this camp, we are hoping that the recent and heartfelt words of Wilkes University’s president, Pat Leahy, begin to resonate across the Wyoming Valley. In addressing the audience before the local premiere of the “Kids For Cash” movie, Leahy spoke of and applauded those people who are working to change conditions as they exist. There are people, he said, who believe our “best days are still ahead of us.” He’s right!
For most of the past two years, the United Way of Wyoming Valley has been working on a strategic planning process that I have written about on several occasions. That process is continuing, and themes are coming into focus. We have met with numerous community partners including corporate and individual donors, nonprofit organizations, businesses, organized labor, government leaders, the faith community, educational institutions, foundations and others. The message we receive is consistent and clear. We don’t have to accept conditions as they exist. Change is not only desirable, it is possible.
Hardly a week goes by that I don’t meet with individuals who are hopeful that our community can turn the corner and be a place where children can grow into successful adults, where families will be stable and secure, where the community is strong, healthy and vibrant, and the safety net is in place for those who truly need it. Important work is being done in all of these areas.
Change takes time, commitment and leadership. It also takes a sense of purpose and unity. There are no quick and easy fixes, and not one of the community partners mentioned above could succeed alone. Government cannot solve all problems itself. Neither can businesses, schools, nonprofits or the faith community. If all of us accept responsibility to change what we can and we work together, however, lasting change can happen.
Through its new strategic direction, the United Way seeks to work with our donors and other community stakeholders to mobilize resources and ultimately reduce social service need in the Wyoming Valley. Need in our community has been rapidly increasing while the resources to address needs are more and more limited. By focusing on education, income stability and health as the three building blocks for a better life, our aim is to address the conditions that create need in the first place.
The old adage that if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day; but, if you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime, is still a powerful concept and a meaningful metaphor to the transformational work that needs to be done. If we work together, President Leahy no doubt will be proven right, and we will find that our best days are, indeed, still ahead of us.