Respecting history, creating paths
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Contributor: Beni Westgor, Resource Development Officer at United Way Fox Cities
I’ve recently finished my first year employed by United Way Fox Cities. Between events, trainings, campaigns, and the plethora of other activities that were packed into a year’s time, my head is still spinning. But my heart is also full. I’ve gotten the chance to see community in action; in more ways than one.
Very early on, I volunteered at Pillars, which was formerly Homeless Connections, to serve dinner. Every kind of human face, size, and age walked through the line. Every face had a history and even if unseen, a path. At the time, I was surprised to see so many smiles. I felt grateful for being able to help, but also because I had my own bed and roof to go home to. Then, a mom came in with her weeks-old baby and I lost it. How could a baby so young not have a home? If baby didn’t have a home, did it have food? If it didn’t have food, did it have diapers? Would baby have a chance to grow and learn as other children do? After I pulled myself together, I saw that a fellow volunteer and residents were engaged in smiles and laughter with baby. I know that even baby, like others in line that night, had a unique history. I also know that thanks to caring people and supportive programs, baby will have a path forward.
Poverty is nondiscriminatory. Our community issues are not mutually exclusive. The issues that arise in the Fox Cities, among every kind of human face, size, and age, are interconnected. If we talk about food, we must also talk about diapers. If we talk about hunger, we have to talk about 3rd grade reading levels. If we talk about mental health, we have to talk about jobs. If we talk about issues, we have to talk about solutions. If we talk about solutions, we have to talk about our community in action. Even in the direst of straits, we can witness the most special of smiles, respect unique histories, and create paths forward.