We all are connected by the times we help

Published 11:45 am Saturday, August 21, 2010

Who does the United Way of Freeborn County serve? We strive to help as many people as possible in our community. The programs United Way supports focus on the areas of education, income and health. As an organization, we believe these are the building blocks to a better life.

Oftentimes, those who are served by United Way programs are not visible and their stories go untold. But they do have stories; someday, they may share them with their children or grandchildren. It will be another reminder of how life is full of challenges, but we are stronger together.

Ann Austin

When I was growing up, my family and I lived in the small Minnesota town of Princeton. These were happy times. I was still quite young. We lived there until I was around 3. Life was very simple. My mom would pull me around town in the wagon as my brother and sister rode their bikes or walked. We even did this in the winter, and the local newspaper had a nice shot of us all as we were heading home from the grocery store.

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We lived in a small house and spent much of our time outside, playing in the trees, watching the ants on the driveway and reading, and I loved to tell stories on my tape recorder. We used to visit a place called Mark Park to pick strawberries. They were free, and I believe they grew wild. It was an ideal childhood in my mind.

Years later, as a young adult, my mom told me how difficult times were back then. It was the early ’80s, and she had taken a leave from her teaching job to care for the three of us. My father was in the construction business. We did receive help from the community as a young family trying to make ends meet. I never suspected that and would never have known it if she hadn’t told me.

It helped me to realize that life is like that; we can never predict our future successes or failures, but we can choose how to react to the situations presented to us.

We have all watched our loved ones go through challenges this year, and it has been beautiful how much people have supported each other, how hearts have been connected in the belief that we will overcome the obstacles we face as a community when we work together.

Stories are powerful — through them we relay the reality of life. In every person’s story there are lessons learned, inner strength discovered and ultimately hope for a better tomorrow.

I encourage you all to find your story and share it. You may have several, and you may be called upon to share them to different people, even to strangers on the street; when you begin to do this, as I have strived to do more this year, you will find how connected we all are. And this, I believe, is the purpose we have in our community and in our lives.

If you are interested in reading some stories about United Way programs and the agencies we support, you can find them this fall on our website: www.unitedwayfc.org. If you have any stories you’d like to share with us, feel free to call any time: 373-8670.

United Way officially kicks off our 2010 campaign on Sept. 1. We look forward to sharing our stories with you all this fall.

Ann Austin is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County. The Live United column appears every other Sunday.