During a conversation recently with a member in which we were reflecting a bit on the past year, she made a remark to the effect of “Well, just another year at the Y…..”; her comment gave me pause. While it’s true that I’ve been a part of the YMCA for seven years, there’s no way I could ever classify any of them as ‘just’. ‘Just’ is defined as ‘only or merely’, and there was nothing ‘mere’ about 2012 with my life at the Wheeler YMCA.
– I was more deeply involved in our Strong Kids Campaign than every before. Typically my job function is to work on the guts of the Campaign; you know, assigning prospects, data entry, mailing reminders. Normal, mundane administrative work. This year, due to our ‘Tell Me Why’ theme of gathering stories from employees, donors, and Campaigners, I was fortunate enough to be in the thick of the emotions behind the work we do. I heard stories from Campaigners who feel so passionately about the YMCA and it’s mission that they volunteered extensive time to help us. I engaged in conversations with employees who generously gave donations because they were able to see first-hand the positive impactwe have on children. These true, geniune stories bolstered my resolve and gave me a sense of pride that has lasted all year.
– I traveled to the Dominican Republic with the New England Alumni chapter of the Association of Y Retirees in order to build a home for a struggling family in the poverty-stricken village of Don Gregorio. This was an enormous thing for so many reasons…I had never been away from my husband and two school-aged daughters, I had never traveled outside the US, I did not speak one iota of Spanish, I absolutely detest heat and humidity, I had never once clapped eyes on any of my 14 other travel mates…the list goes on. The experience I had in exploring the beautiful country, befriending some of the Young Leaders at the YMCA in Santo Domingo, building lasting and meaningful relationships with the Dominicans in the village, and working physically harder than I ever had in my life is one that literally affects me every day. The example I can provide for my children and the empathy I was able to develop have made me a far better person than I ever was before.
– I voluntarily played ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ with one of our Small Smiles Nursery School classes. This may not seem like a big deal for most, but for me, this simple act marked a turning point. I’ve never been very confident around children, and the joke in the building is that I’m the last person anyone would ask to help out in any of our child care departments. They flock to me, though, for some reason, and I had gotten a request from one small girl…”Miss Erica, how come you never play with us?!” Really. What kind of a monster could resist that? I trucked over to the child care wing and happily sat in the circle. I ran through the woods, climbed up a tree, snuck into a cave…and stepped utterly and completely out of my comfort zone for the enjoyment of a passel of four-year-olds.
Not ‘just another year’ at all.
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA