In December, there is always a long list of fun activities going on at the kids’ elementary school. My two little ones love to dress up on theme days, participate in violin recitals, shop in the Holiday House, and sell poinsettias to raise money for field trips. My favorite part of the 2016 end-of-year festivities was reading to my son’s kindergarten class. It was a small task. I was in and out in 20 minutes, but this year it was therapeutic for me – as giving back often is for us all.
I don’t know about you, but 2016 felt a little out of control at times. For better or worse, there were a variety of problems that continued or bubbled up around the globe. A long list of icons passed, from the man who brought Professor Severus Snape to life on the big screen, to an American hero astronaut, to a larger-than-life boxer and activist. An unprecedented year of campaign and election fodder bombarded us at every turn. There was so much unrest around the world and violence here at home. The list goes on and, for me, 2016 left a pronounced feeling of wanting to spend December in bed without access to the internet.
As a dreamer and doer among the change-makers here at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, that’s a pretty awful feeling because we believe in the region’s collective capacity to make a positive impact on Southwest Florida and the world.
When the invitation to read to 5 and 6 year olds arrived, I accepted without thinking twice. I showed up with a book from home about dealing with a problem for no other reason than it’s a favorite.
In the book, the problem is a dark, scribbled ball above the protagonist’s head, a growing ball of worry. The little boy’s drama only subsides when he realizes that opportunity lies in every problem but sometimes you go through a lot of worry and struggle before you can see it.
As these kindergarteners stared up at the truthful illustrations, I realized something I already knew about the way I was feeling. I could worry and hide from a world that often feels out of control, or I could face 2017 with resolve to do my part and try to have a positive impact on the things I can control.
It’s easy to be so connected to a world of challenges that can feel like they’re ours. None of us can tackle global problems alone and worrying about them as if they are ours is paralyzing. What we can do is take control of something we’re passionate about changing for the good right here in our own backyards.
A new year always makes us feel we can control our destiny. Imagine what we could accomplish if we all resolved to make a real positive change here in Southwest Florida in 2017. I’m guessing we’ll feel better, our communities will be better, and the world will reap some benefits, too.
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the foundation has invested $5 million this year in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.