Nancy Vaughan: Kind encounters wake up our community

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By Nancy Vaughan | For The Herald Bulletin Jul 22, 2018 
     
In a recent editorial, the Herald Bulletin described our community as somewhat “sleepy.”
 
Generally this is a low-drama community that feels pretty safe and comfortable for the majority of folks. However, that generalization can mask real issues and discourage people from taking action.
 
We have long noted a lack of feeling of empowerment across the community. In conversation after conversation, we hear that people know they have a role in building a more thriving place to live, but they don’t really know where to begin.
 
Two conversations in the last week revolved around encounters with the issue of homelessness and decisions to act.
 
One volunteer told me about a decision he made to step out of his comfort zone and greet a homeless man. In conversation, he found that this man had been stranded while traveling to visit a family member in another state. He was a veteran and was described as “filthy.” With the help of a local nonprofit, our volunteer got him bathed, clothed and fed. Then he went a step further. He took him to the bus station and purchased a ticket to his family member’s town. He told the story to emphasize how much fulfillment he received by that decision.
 
Another encounter by a staff member happened at a local downtown gathering. A very thin, very frail woman joined the crowd. Although she said she had an apartment, she had obviously not eaten for some time. The people at the gathering brought her inside and fed her. They agreed that if there is food at an event and a hungry person shows up, sharing food is the thing to do.
 
I don’t think these situations are very unusual in our community. I think there are a lot of quiet acts of kindness going on every day. Often, people don’t think about sharing because they don’t want to get undue credit for small acts or they don’t want to be criticized for being gullible. Of course, these actions don’t create long-term change, but every little act impacts those involved and our community as a whole.
 
In both these conversations, we moved from the single account of service to the need for overt acts of kindness across our community, our country and our world. There is power in action, and the euphoria we get from knowing we have done good can lead to more action. The first and most important step is to make the decision to share kindness when opportunities arise: Say yes to lending a helping hand, to making a contribution, to engaging with someone that you normally wouldn’t.
 
I have been making a conscious effort to share positivity on social media, to seek out stories that are uplifting and thought-provoking. I also look for ways to identify and support community-building efforts of all kinds. New businesses, new organizations and activities that bring people together have the power to change the face of our community, and they have the power to change our lives for the better.
 
Nancy Vaughan is president of United Way of Madison County. She can be reached at n.vaughan@unitedwaymadisonco.org or 765-608-3061.
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