In the Know column: What is your story? Tell it!

We want you to know about opportunities to make an impact and invite you to join us as we continue on our journey to serve our community. This year our theme will be “Telling Our Story.”

By Jen Jabas, director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties

Once upon a time in a small backyard, a young girl was working hard planting vegetables that would one day grow and multiply to provide food for many meals that would be shared by her family. This young girl would spend hours over the years planting and harvesting from the most beautiful garden she had ever seen. Over the course of time, she would learn the value of hard work, the challenges and successes along the way, and the importance of relationships throughout.

That little girl was me, and that garden belonged to my grandparents. As a child, I loved my time with them in the garden and learned so much about life in the process. Both of these two amazing people were not only family, but they were my teachers and my biggest fans that encouraged and supported me in all that I did. I’ll never forget my grandfather telling me that a little sweat and a good breeze was nature's way of providing air conditioning! It was my grandmother who taught me to snap beans and freeze corn to preserve and extend the benefits of our hard work long beyond the season's end. Tending to a garden isn’t easy and although there are many joys in the process, it doesn’t come without getting your hands dirty! Weather is unpredictable and weeds are inevitable, but both rain and shine are necessary and together can create a rainbow.

This story is just one of many that make up who I am. I know that this story along with so many life experiences have played a part in how I have become the person I am today. There are many lessons to be learned through stories; stories can help you to better understand yourself and others. Through both telling and hearing stories you can start to make sense of the many events and experiences in life that have led you on the path that you are on and will continue to be part of your journey.

An example: A car can tell a story at first glance but once you open the door and get behind the wheel you will learn so much more. How far has that car traveled? It could be just hitting the pavement or have put on many miles. The seats could be tattered and torn or the interior shiny and new. Regardless of the first impression, it’s the story behind it that creates understanding. That new car is ready to go places and the car that has traveled many miles has created memories. The worn out interior has wiped the hands of many little fingers and caught french fries in the cracks that can only make you smile.


At United Way we can’t wait to tell you our story! We want you to know about why we do the work we do and how it has helped our community grow over time. We want you to know about the amazing people and nonprofits in our community that are changing lives and making a difference each and every day. We want you to know about opportunities to make an impact and invite you to join us as we continue on our journey to serve our community. This year our theme will be “Telling Our Story.”

What’s your story? What’s your business or organization's story? Tell it! How did you begin and what were your early years like? What challenges did you face and what successes have you celebrated? How have you grown over time? Finally, what relationships have you formed along the way? When we get to know one another we are inspired to be part of each other's success. Through history we find meaning and purpose that gives us direction and unity as we look to the future. Our community has done just this. We have shared hardships and united in support of one another. We have told our unique stories and been motivated and inspired by each other. Let’s keep writing those stories and let’s do it together! Once upon a time in a beautiful lakes area…

Jen Jabas is the director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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