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United Way Blog

The Most Important Lessons in Life I Learned From My Mother

As long as I can remember, my mom has been doing for others. She set an example and included me in her good work. I remember as a child, going to volunteer wherever my mom was helping in the community. We did many different things including volunteering at our church or the park concession stand, which I realize now played a vital role in keeping the kids in my community active and healthy.

Recently, we talked about the days when she took me door to door to raise money for important causes—including selling Girl Scout Cookies. It made me remember the day she was so excited when I made a donation from my baby-sitting money. I don’t remember anything else I have ever done where she reacted with such overwhelming joy. I had, after all, just acted on what she really wanted me teach me in life. That it is when we give beyond ourselves that we get the most out of life.

When I was in school, we spent hours discussing current events and issues of social justice. Through those conversations, she helped me to think about the world in which I live. She told me stories from when she was in college of helping to open her business sorority to her African American classmates. She took me to lectures on human rights and international affairs. She was the first to teach me the concept that when you reach out a hand to one, you influence the condition of all.

Mothers have a unique capacity to help their children see the world. When the Mary M. Gates Learning Center was launched here at United Way Worldwide; Mary Gates’s children, Bill and Libby, shared a powerful story from their childhood of how their mother would start dinner conversations based on the United Way committee meetings she had attended that day. She would ask them if they had to make the decision regarding what would make the community stronger similar to her committee work—what would they decide?

When I talk with the women of United Way Women’s Leadership Councils, they often tell me about how their mothers have influenced their desire to be involved in their community. We also discuss the importance of setting that same example for all of the children in our lives today.

Women like my mom are the heartbeat of community, and often go without being thanked. So this Mother’s Day—I want to say thank you to my mom and to all the mothers who keep our families, schools and communities running. There is likely a mother in your world that should be appreciated as well. Share your thanks and her story below.