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Guest Column: Spread a little kindness and give locally

Live United by Erin Haag

Erin Haag

 

Last week, I spent some time waiting in the lobby of a bank. I was visiting with my friend and co-worker, Kristin. Kristin’s working on a little project about shopping local.

Kristin asked a man named Jon if he’d participate. Jon agreed, and afterward we chatted. Jon has lived in the area all his life. He knew exactly which house was mine based on landmarks.

Jon shared with us that he believed strongly in staying local. He talked about different occasions where family members might go out of town for shopping, but that he personally believed it was better to stay right here in the community and shop local. There’s sometimes a little more work involved, but if you’re thoughtful about it, you can find what you’re looking for right here.

There’s a lot of need in our world. When I was in college, I had a good friend whose passion was international adoption. She traveled extensively and returned many times to an orphanage in Ethiopia.

Me? I’m a homebody. I have some travel coming up in the next year, and if I’m honest, I’m more anxious than excited about it. Maybe that’s why I feel stronger about staying local.

The world needs both kinds of people. We need those who are committed to helping our communities. Making our communities grow stronger builds a support system for others to go out and help other communities, vulnerable populations without the tools to help themselves. Stronger communities make for a better world.

The desire to work at changing our community is rooted in kindness. This past week, United Way of Freeborn County has focused on simple activities to foster kindness. The Children’s Center and United Preschool participated by painting kindness rocks. The Albert Lea Art Center helped us spread that message by hosting a Kindness Rocks painting event. Preschooler Brogan and I decided that Snoopy belonged on a few rocks, because he has such a happy dance.

On Saturday, the United Way and The Peppered Cow is hosting a Kindness Rocks painting event at Northbridge Mall from 1 to 3 p.m. We invite you to join us. These rocks will be spread around town, popping up at local businesses and hidden in parks for children to find throughout the spring and summer. A rock-painting event in November might have the opportunity to make a child smile next summer.

Next week, we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving. It’s a short haul to Christmas, and the shopping season will be in full swing. While we have gratitude in our minds, and the sights of these kindness rocks, let’s remember that strong communities make a stronger world. United Way of Freeborn County focuses on the community we live and work in. Ninety-nine percent of the dollars raised for UWFC stays right here in Freeborn County.

Am I asking you to give local or shop local? My message might seem a little contradictory. After all, if you’re giving, then you have less money to shop, right?

It all ties together. Buying what you need in our community helps support businesses. Many of our area business are valuable partners in helping us with in-kind donations, work place campaigns and goodwill ambassadors for the work nonprofits are doing in our area.

So this holiday season, before you head to other areas of our state, think about what’s right here in our community. Need a gift idea and not sure where to go, or when their hours might be? Call our Chamber of Commerce. They’d be glad to give you some ideas. Take a walk in downtown Albert Lea, and explore the different options. The Holiday Bazaar is coming up on Dec. 12 from 4 to 7 p.m. There’s sure to be many options there.

Spread a little kindness — shop local, dine local, support local — and my own twist — give local. If you see Jon while you’re staying local, tell him hello and that the royalty check is on the way.

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.