The New Year is a magical and exciting time. Many of us stop to reset. We reflect on the highs and lows of the past year, and conscientiously embrace new personal aspirations and eliminate the ones we have outgrown or no longer suit us. We ask ourselves, “What do I want to achieve this year? How do I want to transform?” The New Year is a moment when we all allow ourselves to embrace hope, opportunity, and possibility. For some, resolutions are a roaring passion while to others it’s a whispered promise in the back of the mind.
Around the world, the New Year is marked by traditions, celebrations, and superstitions that manifest in the foods we eat, games we play, and prayers we pray. The New Year is a magical and exciting time precisely because of the myriad choices available to us. It is our choice about what we take into the new year and what we leave behind. It is our choice to improve our circumstances and the pace of our transformation.
As I reflect on 2023, I recognize that I grew as an individual, a leader, and a humanitarian. It was important for me to show up and be present in all my engagements, both personal and professional. I chose to act instead of idly standing by, pessimistic about the state of the world and all those suffering around me. I rolled up my sleeves and used my energy, influence, and resources to move the needle of hope forward, even if only just an inch. In 2024, I will choose, once again, to support humanity by finding solutions to the challenges we face around the world. I will not measure my impact or responsibility against the size of the task. I will move forward in the spirit of Mother Teresa who said, “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”
I often find myself speaking with philanthropists who want to make a positive and impactful difference in the world. They seek my expertise as they ponder all the ways to give of their time and resources. Giving of oneself is always a very personal and subjective decision so I never take it lightly when others engage me for ideas. In my role as CEO, I hear many different reasons about why people give, and I share these alongside my own. For me, giving is an act of compassion.
Today, as I begin my personal and professional journey into 2024, I find I am already leaning into my default setting of compassion. Our world is troubled by so many ills, both natural and manmade. My compassion leads me towards gaining greater understanding and taking action to ensure I am continuing to serve our shared ocean of humanity.
Compassion looks different to everyone. All of us have our own unique filters that we apply, and that’s okay. Understanding has to begin somewhere inside us. For me, compassion has many aspects. It is one of the reasons I am here at United Way Worldwide. It is an organization comprised of compassionate people working together for meaningful solutions to problems they may never have encountered personally.
In them I see the importance of the faces of disadvantaged children watching “The Nutcracker” in a community theater, compliments of their neighbors’ generosity. I see successful literacy and STEM enrichment programs open to all children, irrespective of income or school district. I see them in a cupboard stocked with a month’s supply of healthy food for a senior on a restricted income or someone who has lost everything. I see hands holding keys that open doors to safe places to sleep and grab a hot meal. All acts of generosity matter, even things we often overlook or disregard, like shared community vegetable gardens in empty parking lots, or public parks and outdoor spaces. I would even include those for dogs. I was so grateful to have a place to take my beloved dog, Samson! All of these represent drops of water that enrich humanity’s journey.
As 2024 moves forward, I am more determined than ever to help build opportunities that connect individuals and their communities to important resources that can secure better futures for them. I will do this, free of judgement or hesitation, despite being uncertain of the outcome. I will make the choice to be an exemplar of what it means to live with hope, determination, and compassion. I hope to see you along the journey and that we might share our stories.