Jun 26th, 2006 @ 1:11 pm | Author: By Ellen-Earle Chaffee
I often notice wonderful characteristics of this university and community. At times, the key word I think of is "friendly." Other times, it is hard-working. Creative. Resourceful. Depending on current events and experiences, words like this will come to mind at the end of a mental sentence that starts, "I am so lucky to be where people are so [fill in the blank]."

A new one came up in the last few days. The quality has been there all along, but I had not put it together this way before. The word is "giving." Retiring Mayor Riley Rogers and Stretch have given all of us so much through their long-term leadership in government and the arts. The number and status of people who gathered to thank them on Sunday is but one small indicator of our shared appreciation for their gifts.

The idea of giving is the very hallmark of the Barnes County Relay for Life held last Friday. Kari Stricklin has led the event from its inauguration three short years ago to a major celebration of life and hope that raised well over $78,000 this year, with more to tally. We could be first in the state in revenues per capita this year. My estimate is that about 600 people from infants to those who are well up in their 90s participated in the relay. Kari would deny it, but many of us agree that she deserves great personal credit for the "gift" that this relay represents.

The dollars raised are but one element of the relay's giving. A dedicated committee of about a dozen people gave generously of their time all year to prepare for it. More than 30 team captains gave more time to create teams, find sponsors, and raise money with teammates. Teams bring the number of time-giving people to about 300 before the event even starts.

Quite a few additional volunteers helped set up the stadium, ran power lines, hauled trash, provided concessions, offered entertainment, and gave countless hours, donated goods, and talents.

Beyond that, the experience of cancer in the family is an oddly but beautifully giving one. Some give care to the sick person, and many give prayers and hope. Sick people often give courage, perspective, and grace as they face their challenges. The funds raised will be given for research that will give these people now opportunities for life and health.

We also had our annual luncheon for retired VCSU faculty and staff last Friday, as well as a meeting of the alumni association board of directors. We are so very grateful for the legacy our retirees created for us, based on many years of giving their time and talents to grow this fine organization. And the alumni board members come from many miles in all directions to help build lifelong connections with the university.

A new employee at the university asked me for guidance regarding how much money he should plan on donating to the VCSU Foundation. I advised him to "give until it feels good." If we think about giving as a painful obligation, my reply sounds very strange. But if we think about impact instead of dollars, as in the examples above, it makes sense.