Live United: Join in the creation of magic in this great community

Published 8:45 pm Friday, June 21, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Live United by Erin Haag

“You know what the problem with this world is? Everyone wants a magical solution to the problem, and everyone refuses to believe in magic.” It’s been years since I’ve read “Alice In Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll. White rabbits and sort of scary cats aside, the “Alice is Wonderland” book (because the book is always better than the movie) is chock full of quotes to ponder. This one caught my eye this week, and has stuck in my brain this week.

Erin Haag

I have a friend and nonprofit colleague. My school year routine had me seeing her two to three times a week, sometimes just a wave and a smile, but we saw each other. Our routines changed up, and I haven’t seen her in a few weeks. The other day, I walked through the door and her face lit up when she saw me. She walked up and gave me the biggest, best hug.

Email newsletter signup

Goodness, I didn’t realize how much I needed that hug. Later that week, I poked my head into her office to ask her a question, and we chatted for less than 10 minutes about how we thought the summer was going to go … and how it looks nothing like we envisioned.

The thing about working in nonprofits is that you’ve got to keep ahold of the magic, even when everyone refuses to believe in it. When you’re in the catch 22 of needing to hire an experienced, high quality staff person that can help you run a campaign, develop marketing materials or answer the phone, but not having the budget to do it — that can wear down on the magic. We can get caught up in the hamster wheel of digging into the nitty gritty of compliance, writing grants, trying to brainstorm ways to do more with less and wondering how to make it happen. Our spaces are messy, both at home and our offices, but occasionally we hang curtains and pictures and rearrange to reinvigorate ourselves.

As I sit here, when it’s rainy and dark outside, I’m remembering all the things I intended to do this week and wanted to do. I’m thinking about my daughter’s broken finger and watching my son pitch a baseball game for the first time. I’m torn between spending my time in deep cleaning my house, or deep cleaning my office and the United Way spaces. When I look at this quote though, I remember all the times I wrote about the magical things that happen in the United Way world, the connections that get built and the deep sense of community. Let’s get back to that magic.

Last week, someone read my article and called to volunteer. I picked up the phone and invited her down, and she came within the hour, learning about how to get started. It’s a lot — a lot to remember, but I enjoyed my time with her. A few days later, she brought her husband with her, and they delivered boxes of food to homebound seniors. The couple returned that afternoon to help work the pantry shift. As I answered their questions, it reminded me once again how far we’ve come. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of our ribbon cutting.

Next Wednesday will be the one-year anniversary of the Welcome Pantry opening for shopping.

Last week, I went to lunch with someone who wants to join our board. Not only will they join our board, they’ll join in a leadership position. I’m overjoyed to have her expertise and mentorship.

Last week, I opened the door and saw our volunteer resident gardener tackling the planters that I’ve been eyeballing for weeks now, but haven’t stopped long enough to do it. I greeted her and told her I’ve been meaning to call her and ask her for advice, and that I’d buy the supplies and provide some help. She told me that she already had the supplies with her in the truck, and it was happening right then!

Last week, a friend messaged me and reminded me of a group that wanted to help with in-kind donations to the pantry. I haven’t even responded to her yet, because I saw her message while waiting for my kid to walk off the ballfield and get into the car in between raindrops. It gave me hope that it’s not too late to tap into new resources.

Last week I went for an appointment and ran into someone that I’ve been thinking about calling, because I know she’s a fabulous community advocate and volunteer. She mentioned she was having trouble finding a spot to volunteer, so we must have a lot. The opposite is true, so I’m seeing clearly that we need to revise our volunteer platform and connect with our volunteers to find out what things look like on their end. I told her I’d give her a call and we’d catch up. As I left my appointment, I saw a volunteer that we haven’t seen for a while, and she shared with me that she doesn’t have transportation, but she wants to come back.

Sometimes magic is just showing up. Repeatedly, magic shows itself in the hug of a good friend, a new person walking through the door to volunteer or a beautiful planter of flowers.

It’s a veteran that loves visiting our pantry enough that he jokes he wants to ask about room and board and he sings “God Bless America” for us on his way out the door. It’s little girls shopping with their mom and grandma, buzzing around with the kid shopping carts, and leaving with a stack of books from our Little Free Library.

It might be a rainy start to summer, with lakes too weedy for good fishing and rushing around with a never ending to do list, but the magic is still there. Flowers are blooming, kids are reading and playing ball, popsicles are still getting eaten. Gardeners are sharing their produce with the pantry, and while meetings may not be my favorite way to spend a pretty afternoon, I’m hearing about possibilities of exciting things to come. If you’d like to join us, to learn how you or your business might join in the creation of magic, of community, of giving back, give us a call. Our phone number is 507-373-8670.

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