Born Learning (and Serving!)

When my Dad got ready to retire several years back after a lifetime of hard work and dedication, I wondered what the heck he would do with himself with his newfound freedom and spare time. Dad is a hard worker– he always has been – from his days working in newspaper publishing to his adventure with Mom in starting a sign business from the ground up that they ran together for over 20 years. If you don’t know, small business ownership is hard. If you don’t wake up on time, the shop does not open. If you don’t finish a job, no one is there to pick up the slack and take over. So, after a lifetime of this solid work ethic, I wondered what would lie in store for him in his days as an official retiree. Well, I soon found out. He was born to continue learning, doing, and serving – just like he had throughout his professional life. He now serves his local hospital as a volunteer. He serves his local opera house as house manager and all around go-to guy. He serves his church in many roles. And he serves (sometime to his chagrin) alongside Mom at her varied Arts Council activities.

And, let me tell you, Mom is not far behind. She’s alongside him at the hospital. She’s in choir and in assistance in several roles at their church. And she is instrumental in a campus ministry organization that welcomes students sometimes on the fringe with warm soup and warm smiles. So why the title Born Learning & Serving? Because, oftentimes, I see bits of myself in my parents. Longtime PTA service. Service to DeKalb High School Music Programs. Friend of Children’s Learning Center, paying back in some small way the staff that helped me raise my son from infant to school aged superstar. Was I born with a desire to learn and grow? Are we innately called to be of service to others? I don’t know. What I do know is that I watched my parents serve others throughout their lives, and that has influenced both the person I am and the person I want to be.

Born Learning is also that name of United Way’s first national public engagement campaign which shares public service advertising, parent materials, online tips, tools and templates to help advance early childhood impact strategies. Today, United Way Born Learning manifests itself in products that foster parent education and help to teach early learners basic skills though playful design and bold colors. We are excited to announce that, thanks to our local Target Distribution Center, the DeKalb Park District and 4-C, we will be constructing a Born Learning Trail in DeKalb. The “Trail” is a series of 10 interactive signs that offer fun, active learning stations in a local parkway for young children and their families. It will help parents, caregivers and communities create quality engagement opportunities when out on a stroll or visiting a local playground.

So – are we born learning and born serving? I don’t know. What I know as a United Way professional and member of a robust nonprofit community, is that IF we have tools — materials, toys, teachers, safe spaces, and areas to grow, learn and play — we learn faster. IF we have role models that show us a path of service and altruism, we become outward-facing people and we serve others better. We hope that you join us soon as we embark on our annual Day of Caring on June 14th where we always learn a little, grow a little and serve a LOT. C’mon along – you were ‘born’ to join us! 🙂


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