When I was a kid, I wasn’t really interested in changing the world. To me, “the world” covered about 10 square miles, and it seemed pretty perfect. My family had a home near a lake where we could swim in the summertime. Our neighborhood had a good-sized group of kids, and we’d build forts in the woods. My brother and I were allowed to walk to the neighborhood store to spend our allowance on candy… seriously, why would I want to change that? I was really lucky.
As I grew up, the world got a lot bigger. People I had never met were suffering from hunger, lack of shelter, lack of access to medical care. Other kids my age were struggling with parents who didn’t feel education was important, or encountered other obstacles standing between them and a positive future — many never had someone saying, “you can be anything you want to be, so be something good.” There were a lot of problems I didn’t understand… some that I still don’t understand. If I get to thinking too long about the problems in the world, I get discouraged — any efforts I make to aid the problems of the world seem like a drop of water in the desert… I won’t make any difference.
Which brings me to a conversation I had with my colleague Deanna. We’ve been discussing ways to get our colleagues more involved in our community, and she mentioned feeling as though the focus of many CU people is on how CUs tie in to the world — rather than starting at home. It’s a great point.
For me, thinking about the Credit Union Movement helps me to feel like I’m part of a worldwide change… like I’m on a team building aqueducts into the deserts. [And to be clear about this metaphor, I’m not endorsing changing the nature of land. Planting water-loving crops in a desert is not recommended. If I come up with a more apt metaphor, I’ll update it.] It’s working towards a world with cooperative, community-based financial services. Even though I’m looking at the bigger picture, the way that I see doing this begins on the most personal of levels: with me.
Like Deanna, I feel it is incredibly important for my credit union and my colleagues to be a positive force within the community. I want us to be recognized as a boon to the neighborhoods where our branches make their home, and I want us to actively seek community partnerships with residents and other organizations who are equally vested in the health of the community. Maybe we can even partner with other area credit unions — aren’t we all cooperatives? Let’s cooperate!
So, for me, personally… that means bringing my enthusiasm for my CU and my community to the table daily. When my community benefits, I want them to associate the positive changes they see with my CU (or even credit unions in general). If we each find ways to incorporate our external passions inward to our CU, and bounce that passion back out again to our communities… I think together we could change the world. Let’s do it.