Now that the election is over…

img_17001Today half of the country is exuberant and celebrating.  While at the same time another half is concerned, upset and in disbelief.  This year’s campaign was quite ugly.  But regardless of what side one might be on, there is a very strong consensus and real concern for our country’s unity.

Now that the election is over, one of our key roles at CommunityGiving and through all of our affiliate foundations is to build COMMUNITY.

A few weeks back I had the honor and privilege of attending the Unity Walk organized by St. Cloud area faith leaders in response to the tragic stabbing at Crossroads Mall.  As I was walking, I looked over the person next to me.  He looked familiar but I couldn’t place the name.  I extended my hand and said “Hi, I’m Steve Joul.”  He responded, “Oh Hi.  I am Jerry Wetterling.”  My face turned red.   I felt bad I didn’t recognize him.  Immediately I said I was so very sorry for his loss.  And thanked him for his tireless efforts and those of his wife Patty to help families not just in St. Cloud but across the country.

Just then I had a tap on my shoulder.  It was Farhan Abdi.  Farhan runs an afterschool program for Somali Youth in the Greater St. Cloud area.  I had heard and seen on social media that Farhan had not been feeling very good recently because the perpetrator of the attacks at the mall was a youth that at one time had been involved in one of his programs.  He knew the kid and was devastated that afterschool programming and activities had not had the desired outcome of positively impacting this young man.  I introduced Farhan to Jerry Wetterling.

As we walked on that cold October morning, a slow mist started to fall.  I was humbled by the opportunity to be walking alongside these two inspiring members of our community.  Both had experienced significant and devastating losses in recent weeks and lived through those tragedies.  Yet each in their own way found deep within themselves the power to move through their respective experiences and on that particular day felt compelled to come together as community members and walk for Unity.

Often it is out of challenges and in times of change that opportunities for hope and vision emerge.  The tragedy of Jacob Wetterling brought out the best in our community.  It brought people together to show care and concern not just for Jacob but for ALL children.

Similarly the Greater St. Cloud community rallied and came together with the most recent events at the Crossroads Mall.  Across race, class and culture people came together quickly to show that this community can come together and not let these tragedies splinter and divide us.  The Willmar community did the same last summer with the tragedy of two young Somali boys who drowned and then in August when the city was deluged with flash floods from torrential rains.

Community is a fragile thing.  What defines it, holds it together and ultimately determines success is difficult to measure. Often, though, at the core of community are relationships that are built over time.  At CommunityGiving we have called this “social capital” and during times of crisis and times of change we see just how important these relationships are to our sense of community.

One of the examples of building social capital we often share here at CommunityGiving is the example that we bring Pepsi and Coke together.  And indeed, in our refrigerator in our offices in St. Cloud that is a fact.  More importantly, this idea translates to engaging board members, donor and volunteers from all political persuasions and backgrounds in the community.

As we move beyond this year’s election and we look at the difficult challenges our communities face, we invite you to keep in mind the important role your community foundation plays in building community.  Only by coming together can we find solutions to the many issues our communities face.  Only by coming together do we truly live out the values of CommunityGiving and create the kind of community in which we all desire to live.

Thank you for ALL you do!