By Rita German, John Hancock
People know what I do. I work in the Office of Corporate Responsibility and help support our employees desire to volunteer. I also manage our annual United Way campaign. What many don’t know is why I do what I do each day.
Full disclosure: prior to joining John Hancock I worked at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley for close to 5 years. But my motivation for what I do started long before finding that job. I just didn’t realize it.
I could go into how my childhood saw its share of hardships and when you are struggling, yours is the most real. You don’t have to live with poverty to know it’s affects the trajectory of your life. You don’t have to see your parents struggle to provide for you to empathize with their desperation. You don’t have to live with violence to see the tragic effects it has on a person and their community.
You certainly don’t have to see the person that lends a helping hand to appreciate their impact.
This all became clear to me when we at John Hancock made a choice to make our goal this year to help 1,200 youth connect to supportive and effective programs which will help them all stay on track to graduate and offer them positive options for the future.
I was one of those youths. With no ounce of hyperbole or melodrama it is that I share with you that growing up was not easy and I’m certain I share a similar story with many. But I hope that like me, their upbringing was also filled with magic, encouragement and resources. We had safe places to go, good people to help us – we had neighbors and places like The Children’s Aid Society in New York City.
It wasn’t until I landed at United Way that I realized that they helped agencies like The Children’s Aid Society to remain open, scale their work and serve so many more. More importantly I realized that United Way was able to do this because of individuals choosing to help some kid they never met before.
I’m a firm believer that the two most important moments in your life are the day you are born and the day you realize why you were born. We are all here to do great things. Supporting one kid you’ve never met before has a legacy and a longevity bigger than the small act that initiates the change.
It’s not lost on me that I am where I am because of other people. Many of whom I have never met, nor will I ever meet them. But on days like today I can thank them in a greater way… I can pay it forward.