Lesson from the Aspen Tree: Interconnectivity

Guest post by Chris Wilborn

From remarks originally given at a Hardin County Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon:

Chris Wilborn United Way Central Kentucky Hardin County Chamber luncheonFirst let me take a moment to brag a little — my wife and I had our first child a little over a month ago. And as many of you already know, parenthood means longer days, less sleep, messy diapers, and of course — some of the greatest joy anyone can experience!

But my reason today for telling you our good news (other than bragging a little of course) is because we named our son Ashton, and our first child, our dog the beagle, is named Aspen. Now you wouldn’t think that would be confusing; but whether it is because of sleep depravation or just the result of old habits I spend a great deal of time calling Ashton-Aspen and Aspen-Ashton.

Of course regardless of what name I use — Neither seems to think it’s too important to listen to “good old dad”, so I guess I shouldn’t feel too badly.

The other point of this story is really to talk with you about Aspen, not our dog Aspen but her name sake – the Aspen tree. Living in Colorado for several years, especially at this time of year, we loved watching the leaves of the Aspen turn that beautiful golden color with the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

What we didn’t know then, was that each of those beautiful trees is a part of a single-living organism connected by one underground root system.

And as we begin our United Way kick off, I would ask you — aren’t we in this community and in this region, also, all ‘connected’, just as those Aspen trees are?

Our collective challenges are clear; educationally we must increase graduation rates. It isn’t just a problem for the individual who drops out; there are long-term negative consequences for society as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 30 fastest-growing occupations, 19 require at least a bachelor’s degree. This points to an even more troubling future for our dropouts, as the reality sets in that there will be fewer and fewer jobs available for those without at least some post-secondary education. And from a business standpoint, can our companies in the region be successful without an educated workforce?

We know there is a strong correlation with higher crime rates and low education and literacy rates; certainly an adverse effect on any community.

And of course families that are financially stable and are able to meet their basic needs don’t need to rely on the public for assistance.

According to a recent study covering four states including Kentucky, when our economy declines, instances of child abuse increased significantly, especially among infants. And children who are abused will more likely struggle as they grow older with juvenile and criminal activity, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence.

However, in this community, you the business and government leaders of Hardin County can take pride in our culture of caring and giving.

Your United Way, serving the five county area of Hardin, Breckinridge, LaRue, Grayson, and Meade aspires to foster lasting solutions for our community in the three priority areas of Education, Income and Health – necessary building blocks for a good quality of life for all. These are not ‘Band-Aid approaches’, but real opportunities created for children and adults to succeed in life where they did not have opportunities before.

Your investment in the United Way will have a ripple effect throughout our community helping to assure our society progresses and our children have a positive future. We all win, when a child is successful in school, when families are financially self-sufficient, and when our residents are healthy.

The Aspen tree may be one of the largest living organisms, interconnected as it is by one root system – yet in Elizabethtown, in Hardin County, and our region we also share that same interconnectivity, as each of us is a part of the greater whole. The amount you give, the effort you make, will strengthen your friend, will help your neighbor, and will enable this community to continue to grow and prosper.

From the KIX.com Team:

If we are to realize our dream for the region and become a place where people can realize their greatest potential, then we need to take the well-being of each and every individual into account. Our vibrant and exemplary non-profit community coupled with our region’s tremendous volunteer spirit helps make that possible.

The KIX.com team recently attended the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon. Traditionally, the September luncheon is devoted to the kick off of the annual United Way of Central Kentucky Fundraising Campaign.

These remarks by the new United Way of Central Kentucky Executive Director, Chris Wilborn, were worth sharing. Originally from Shelby County, Chris and his wife moved back here by way of Florida, Colorado and most recently, Baltimore, Maryland.

How fortunate we are to bring this homegrown talent back to help make our communities better.

Special thanks to Chris! We’re delighted to have him as guest blogger.