Oddly enough, the theme “Inspired Colorado” was one of the more challenging topics I’ve been presented with for my remarks. “Inspired Colorado” was difficult because there is so much inspiration in our work. How to narrow it down? We are surrounded by inspiration every day. We stand in awe of our amazing nonprofits who work at the intersection of imagination and integrity. We rely on our workplace partners who make space for philanthropy each year and inspire millions of dollars in giving. And we stand on the shoulders of unheralded giants, our donors, everyday philanthropists changing the world $1 at a time.
Instead of looking out to all that inspires me, I decided to look within to share what inspires me. I also stand on the shoulders of unexpected giants. Not only in my work with Community Shares but on the path that brought me here. In April I was fortunate to spend some time at my family’s cabin on the Washington coast with my parents, cousin, aunt, and my 91-year old grandmother. Mind you, she isn’t one of those cute, cuddly grandmothers. Because she doesn’t like the taste of water, she’s hydrated solely by coffee and Milwaukee’s Best Light. She’s sarcastic, sharp as a tack, and only recently stopped chopping her own wood. When I offered to help her to the car this Christmas she pushed me over the back of the couch and said, “Maybe you should help yourself.” That’s my Granny. One day during our time at the cabin I told her in passing that I liked her coat. She told me, “You know, I have 27 coats. I counted. I just love coats. I never had one when I was a little girl so now I love having them. It’s the same with shoes. We didn’t have shoes. Now I have a lot of shoes. I know I have too many coats and shoes but it’s hard to let them go when you grew up without having them.”
My grandparents on both sides of my family grew up in poor farming communities in the rural Pacific Northwest. My parents are both first generation high school attendees. Not graduates, attendees. My grandparents were all needed on their farms and when the farms went away they worked in a series of jobs to make ends meet and keep shoes on the feet of their kids. My parents both went on to put themselves through college and moved to Seattle where my sisters and I were raised. Last year I was the last of the three daughters to finish her Master’s degree. That’s a lot of changes in two generations. My grandmother is smarter than me and works harder than me but we were dealt a very different set of opportunities. I don’t forget that.
Most of us in this room have received a generous supply of opportunities. Friendships. Family. Education. Employment. Some opportunities are ladders to reach new heights. Most of us also have the opportunity of a safety net in case we stumble. And you are here tonight because you choose to share those opportunities with others. I know I didn’t get here because I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. I’m here because I have a grandmother who aspired to one day have shoes.
None of us got here alone and what inspires me is when we recognize that and share our opportunities and abundance with others. That is what we are celebrating tonight. On behalf of Community Shares, thank you for your inspirations and investing in the aspirations of others.