Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Johnny Cougar

Whether you know him as Johnny Cougar (my personal fav), John Cougar Mellencamp, or John Mellencamp, he had it right about small towns.

Well, I was born in a small town. 
And I live in a small town.
Probably die in a small town.
Oh, those small communities.

I think most Grant Countians can relate.  There is definitely something special about a small town.  For example, just last week I had lunch with a friend from elementary school who collected lunch trays with me in the cafeteria in 2nd grade.  And, I also caught up with some friends at a place I’ve frequented more times than I can count on two hands…the funeral home.

A visit to the funeral home in a small town is almost like a class reunion.   The place is familiar to everyone with lots of pictures depicting the years, chatter recalling happy memories, and friends.  Always lots of friends.  

Death is a part of life, it’s true.  But when your community is small, the impact of any one person is great.  And much to my surprise, in spite of all the really amazing work we get to do at the Community Foundation, we actually have to deal with death much more than anyone might guess.  At a recent CEO Retreat I attended, a seasoned Executive Director shared how she never realized how emotional the job would be.  It’s just not something they can teach you.  Leadership, yes.  Grantmaking, yes.  Asset Development, yes.  Death, no.   As you can imagine, it’s not uncommon for families to set up funds in memory of loved ones that have passed away recently.  Many more make donations in memory of someone in lieu of flowers.  And some even plan ahead and place the Foundation in their will so they can leave an eternal legacy of goodness. 

So, when I ran across an article recently entitled, Always Go to the Funeral by Dierdre Sullivan, I had to take a moment to read it.  She writes of her dad’s simple philosophy, “get in your car and go to the calling hours or the funeral”.   But the lesson Sullivan learned was more complex than that.  She equates going to the funeral with always doing the right thing, even when she doesn’t feel like it.

Wow, that’s worth remembering!  Who has ever felt like going to a funeral?  But, we do it.  Because it’s the right thing to do.  Sometimes a small act of kindness on our part is uber meaningful to the recipient.  And, that’s worth pondering.  As Sullivan so wisely stated, these aren’t decisions about good versus evil.  These are decisions about doing good versus doing nothing.   And, BOOM, there it is.

That’s how we leave our family, our neighborhood, our school, our community, our city, our county, our country, our world better than we found it.  Doing good versus doing nothing.

The Community Foundation is a great place to begin.  Start a fund.  Support a cause.  Honor someone you love with a donation in their name.  After all, we are all in charge or our own dash.   As poet Linda Ellis reminds us, the dash, that little line between your date of birth and date of death is ours to invest for the good of others.  It might be a 50-yard dash.  It might be a 100-yard dash.  That we don’t know.  But, what we do know is, our dash can make a big difference in a small town.  Even Johnny Cougar knew that.

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