On August 23-26, 2020, the city that I love, Kenosha, Wisconsin, was ravaged by riots and civil unrest. The days of that week, I experienced the greatest joy watching the people of Kenosha come together to serve others. It wasn’t the government that was there to solve the challenge; it was the people. People who acted swiftly to show genuine care for each other. I know that my feelings of joy, even amidst the confusion, were not isolated, it was a palpable emotion in the air. Joyful service for others creates emotional wellness that can’t be duplicated.
My BHAG for our region is that the burden of caring for each other would naturally fall on the shoulders of each of us as we think about and interact with our fellow humans. Care that transcends family ties, race, education, neighborhood, political ideology, religious affiliation – care that is present and active for humanity, especially those near us. The result of this way of living will be people who feel alive because of what they are contributing to each other: less self-absorption, more awareness, and deep and broad mental wellness bubbling up from the natural joy that is found in serving others.
What will this look like? The people of our community shouldering the weight of the needs of the people of the community. Our citizens readily accepting and promoting the question “What can I do to help?” instead of “When will they do something?” People in need will feel unashamed in accepting prompt support, because of their mutual commitment to serve others when and how they can. The types of service that will be transformative aren’t limited to neighborly snow shoveling or lawn watering. No, this care for others will stem from an attitude of truly looking out for each other, seeing the big picture and meeting needs. This might be reading to a child, sharing a garden, teaching someone to cook, lending an ear, pointing to a resource, standing up for justice, sharing a newspaper, picking up trash, offering a ride, showing the way. In a nutshell, it is people living the Golden Rule, treating others the way they would like to be treated.
How will we accomplish this? Cooperation by faith-based and nonprofit organizations, businesses, educational institutions and government agencies knitting themselves together with the goal of supporting people in the mission. Leaders in our community casting vision for the people being the answer. Citizens who are committed to both readily look for challenges to solve and having the willingness to ask for help when they need it.
What will this mean to us? Our region will enjoy the fruits of healthy people and strong economic impact. Living a life committed to service results in healthy minds. Healthy minds enable people to reach their potential and greatest measure of success. The economic impact of this adopted lifestyle will be a blend of government services with taxing that is manageable and healthy.
Why? Because people serving others meets so many needs. The first one is what we all desire: meaningfulness in every day and in every breath.
This column is part of “25 big ideas for Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin’s future,” a feature included in the BizTimes Milwaukee 25th anniversary issue. To read other contributions, visit biztimes.com/bigideas