Look deeper for what is to be appreciated

Published 5:09 pm Saturday, November 16, 2013

Column: Live United, by Ann Austin

For those of us who use Facebook, we know it has a lot of extraneous information we really don’t care to know about.

But, lately, many of my friends have been inspired to share what they are thankful for. I have found this to be a beautiful daily practice to witness. People are thankful for their jobs, their family, the friendships they have, their vehicles, the fact that they live in this great country and so much more!

Ann Austin

Ann Austin

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My favorite posts have been from a local gal named Angie Eggum (Tribune employee.) She has such a wonderful perspective about life and has been a positive voice for our community for many years.

She has modeled what it is to be a devoted daughter, an engaged wife and a really good mother. I don’t see her much, as I don’t see many of my Facebook friends as much as I’d like, but she has an impact on my perspective some days. And I am thankful for that.

Appreciating the gifts I have been given in life (the positive relationships and experiences, my education and my socio-economic situation) is something I constantly do — especially since I started at the United Way. I see how often people are struggling and how many have started out in a challenging situation and have trouble creating a new reality for themselves.

Many children who grow up in poverty will encounter a lifelong struggle to break free. These days generational poverty is the norm, rather than situational poverty.

According to a site called “Consider the Poor,” situational poverty is defined as poverty “based on dire and often unexpected circumstances — the seven D’s: divorce, death, disease, downsized, disabled, disasters and debt.

Often, children in situational poverty have been given the tools to better their circumstances. They have seen what a healthy family looks like and understand the importance of finishing an education, have skills to find a job and achieve financial stability.

Generational poverty includes “those who have two or more generations living in poverty.” Children often grow up in fragmented families and don’t always have strong connections to stable people in their lives. They tend to live day to day and rely on local programs and services to survive, rather than for emergency situations.

The big difference between the two is learned behaviors and connections (or lack of connections) in the community.

Over the past five years at the United Way, I have come to recognize that local programs alone don’t have the answers. I have said this before and will continue to say it: To address the issues we face today, it will take involvement from the whole community.

If you have a good life, use your energy to be a positive example for others. Speak up for what you value in life and help others see how things can be different. Use your voice to be a light in the darkness, rather than closing yourself off and believing that you can’t make a difference.

The more you use your life to help, the more opportunities you will have to engage others and really start to see a change in the world we live in.

Yes, we are facing challenging times — and will continue to. The world is changing constantly around us. But we have each other and it is the greatest gift we don’t often recognize.

As Thanksgiving fast approaches, I encourage you to look deeper at what you appreciate about life and give thanks every day. It is a good habit to have. And, if you start to share it with others, I guarantee you will be making a difference in someone’s life.

Live united!


Ann Austin is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.