Thursday, February 9, 2012

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

With a quick click of the mouse, a Google search netted ten scripture passages that encourage us that we should love our neighbor just as we love ourselves. My favorite is James 2:8, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.”

Over the last few days, it has been refreshing to see abundant examples of this scripture alive and well in our community. The concept of this column came to mind as I attended the United Way Campaign Kick-off meeting on Tuesday of this week. As I sat there listening to the various speakers outlining all that is done for each of us through United Way, the many other events that occurred over this past weekend also illustrated the loving and caring character of our community.

Let me start by congratulating Brian Ramsey, Chairman of the United Way Board, and Bill Davies, this year’s Campaign Chairman, for a wonderful kick-off meeting. I have been a United Way supporter for many years and our community’s United Way team and its agencies are extraordinary and doing amazing work under the leadership of Amanda Burt.

The goal for the campaign is reasonable and achievable for our community. But raising $3.25 million dollars is no easy task even in good times. But given the resilient nature of our community and the caring character that is part of who we are, we will once again do the right thing. Despite the challenging and continued economic headwinds, each of us that are able can and will help our neighbors through our United Way.

JT Finley, a local businessman and Big Brother through the Big Brother and Big Sister program, gave a moving testimonial about how lives can be changed through the simple act of caring and doing. He and his little brother have been together for 12 years with both being blessed by their relationship. Everyone may not be suited for such a commitment, but JT’s story is a wonderful example of how doing a little can achieve and grow into so much more.

Bill Davies gave the keynote speech with the theme being “Fight or Flight.” He told a story about an unplanned and frightening encounter with a black bear while hiking the Appalachian Trail. He had two choices – run or stay and fight. Thankfully for Bill and our community, he chose to run and leave the bear alone.

He went on to say, we have a similar choice as we face these difficult economic times. We can stay and fight by strengthening our community through all means possible. Or we can leave. A few may leave in pursuit of employment. And if that enables them to provide for their families, leaving is in their best interest. But the majority of us are here because we love this community. And by pulling together, we can not only survive the downturn affecting us, we can come out of this stronger than before.

Last Saturday, I attended Kids Day in our beautiful downtown. Kids Day is organized by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Whitfield, Murray, and Gordon Counties. In addition to having many fun games and activities for kids, they had partner agencies on hand for people to get information.

I spent a little time talking to the volunteers manning the Northwest Georgia Humane Society tent. They were there, with their dogs, offering information on the many services the Humane Society offers in our community. We have a terrible situation in our community where thousands of good animals are euthanized annually because our pet population is not controlled through more proactive measures. The volunteers for the Humane Society volunteer countless hours trying to improve our situation. If only we could assist them in providing a larger facility, more animals could be spared and adopted.

And finally, let me thank Sheriff Chitwood, Chairman Babb, and Mayor Pennington for a wonderful Remembrance Celebration held at our Courthouse after church on Sunday. The ceremony was a moving and appropriate tribute to the members who serve in our local public safety agencies. The members of our law enforcement community, our firefighters, and our emergency medical responders serve us unconditionally and with passion. Just as the victims of 911 in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania were served so valiantly by first responders in those communities, we are blessed by ours daily. THANK YOU!

We are a caring community. More often than not, neighbor is serving neighbor and taking care of those in need. It has been a few good days to see ministry in action despite difficult economic times. Anyone who has ever served their neighbor can testify to the amazing benefits the giver receives in addition to the one served.

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