Live United: Don’t forget to find your moments of hygge this year

Published 8:45 pm Friday, January 1, 2021

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Live United by Erin Haag

I learned a new word the other day. A friend shared a picture of an outdoor fireplace with the caption “Hygge.” To be really honest, I think I might have learned about it last year, and maybe even wrote about it, but I forgot. If I did, I’m hoping you’ll enjoy the reminder. “Hygge” translates loosely to coziness and togetherness. It’s specific to wintertime, and has roots in Old Norse, including the word hugr, which evolved into “hug.” Hug means the soul, mind and consciousness. Hygee is a word that’s always appropriate for this time of year, this time of hunkering down for the days after the holidays. Certainly, the connections to the word “hug” makes sense to me. That soul deep connection a good hug can bring you goes far beyond the physical touch.

Erin Haag

What happens to hygee in a pandemic though? Or in an election year? A year of such controversy, where both sides feel it’s vital to their very way of life? Isn’t that what we’ve been struggling with all year? Battling the sense of isolation, reaching for hygee.

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This past year, we’ve focused on hygee, or in United Way terms — community impact. While part of the ongoing discussion, it wasn’t a fully conscious decision, as it was born of necessity and limitations. Community impact has been the model that United Ways across the county have been moving towards for the past 10 years. The days of only doing allocations to nonprofits are long gone for those United Ways. Allocations are always going to be an important piece of who we are — but in a manner designed to sustain healthy nonprofits rather than to have them depend solely on us to maintain their programming. It’s about fostering new programming, increasing efficiency and maintaining standards.

What do those standards look like? Well, that’s a job for 2021. 2020 became about survival, and 2021 will be some of that as well. But incrementally, UWFC keeps moving toward upholding best practices for everyone, including ourselves. These best practices work not only toward increasing capacity, efficiency, but also breaking the cycle. In my mind, it’s also about hygee — the togetherness aspect of the definition. Connections, togetherness and a holistic approach to clients. Hmm, could it be community and united as well? Giving people dignity, empowerment and removing barriers for them to create a better life.

I was on the phone the other day with a donor. He wanted to get up to date on what UWFC has been working on, and so we talked. He was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about UWFC in the past but wanted to have a good foundation for discussing with his wife, who didn’t have the same knowledge base as he did. I offered to give him “talking points” with a bulleted list. He liked that idea, and told me, “I don’t need it to be pretty,” which that is my biggest regret this year. I didn’t get a mailing out this fall, with the formal pledge card to residents. Week after week, it was always on my list, and week after week, it’d be fire after fire.

So please. Consider this your pledge card. The campaign officially runs until Jan. 15. There’s a possibility that will be extended, but I’m awaiting word on what exactly that means for tax purposes. Several corporations are choosing to run their campaign in January/February, which creates a domino effect. Many of you have sent in checks, with notes written on stationary. Thank you. These are wonderful and do the job. In the meantime, a strategic goal of mine is to do quarterly mailings. This means I’ll have to build up my mailing list, as I suspect my current one is sadly out of date. So if you’re not able to send a pledge this year, but you’re interested in future mailings, I’d love if you drop me a little note with your updated address and phone number. I learned yesterday that our phones aren’t working again. Unfortunately, it might take a few days to get them up and running, and I hope that’ll happen by early next week. But when it’s working, give me a call at 507-373-8670 or drop me a note at P.O. Box 686. If you’re an email person, you can reach me at I’m always happy to hear from you.

Happy New Year, and don’t forget to find your moments of hygge.

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