Pastor Mark Dickerson runs a marvelous basketball league for kids at Calvary Baptist Church. Beyond the basics of dribbling and a sky hook, Pastor Mark takes time to talk about things that transcend basketball.  Recently, he discussed gratitude – thankfulness regardless of your circumstances – with my son’s team.  This resonated with me because like all young professionals it can be a real challenge to balance the demands of career, family, volunteerism and the occasional (yet essential) downtime.  It’s not always easy to feel grateful in our daily quest for balance, and yet once again I saw our membership expressing their thankfulness in the midst of busy working days at two recent Young Leader United events: the Speaker’s Spotlight and the reading event at Carpenter Street Elementary School.

Young Leaders United kicked off the year with a Speaker’s Spotlight luncheon at the Country Club in early February. We heard from four dynamic leaders around philanthropy and finding balance. Kevin Kendrick, Vice President of Global Security at Dow Corning Corporation; Paul Barbeau, Vice President of Michigan Baseball Foundation; Diane Postler-Slattery, Chief Executive Officer of MidMichigan Health; and Jim Nigro, Vice President Sales & Marketing at McKay Press shared what motivates their philanthropy and how they manage their careers, organizations and giving back to the communities where they live and work.

Key advice from that discussion:

  • Values around character and leadership:  Heart, vision, a personal mission statement, passion, accountability, having fun, giving your best, acting with civility, respecting others, courage to admit when you’re wrong, being positive and demonstrating initiative.
  • When selecting volunteer opportunities:  Find activities and causes that you are passionate about.  If you don’t know where your passion lies, be open to exploring before you commit and knowing how to say no to the wrong fit.
  • When mentoring others or being mentored:  Look for individuals that inspire you and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Every one of our guests had strong influences from an early age that inspired their sense of community and activism.
  • Balancing time for volunteerism:  Use care to select opportunities that you are dedicated to, and remind yourself, that “I chose to be here.”

In March, Young Leaders celebrated Reading Month at Carpenter Street Elementary by reading to all second graders. We ate pizza, read and laughed together. Celebrating our second year reading to students, we hope this inspires Young Leaders to sign up for Big Brothers Big Sisters Lunch Box Learners (a weekly mentoring and reading program). What an impactful lunch hour that and was part of a larger initiative that United Way led where 750 books were distributed to second graders across the county.

These experiences leave me so optimistic about this year for United Way and our Young Leaders. I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend time making a difference. Each of us has a role to pay to inspire others with our actions.