I had a business trip to Florida as we were running up to deadline this week. I was bummed when I got to the airport and realized I had forgotten "Moll Flanders", which I’d checked out of the local library. I had work to do on the way out and writing my column planned for the flight back. In all honesty I wasn’t looking forward to this prospect.
In addition to business travel last week, my little sister was scheduled to get married (worded on the safe side!) at my house on July 23. We had done a lot of work in the months leading up to the wedding, including making the groom’s and groomsmen’s vests and yarmulkes to coordinate. I was about to give up on making my dress as the matron of honor, which I still hadn’t started as of this writing.
Flying Southwest, I was early in the cattle call and got to choose my seat as I was boarding. I wanted to be at the front to jump off as quickly as possible and head home to start this column. (I’m really not a procrastinator.) I sat in the aisle of the first row, which had more legroom too, next to an older couple. Before we even got taxiing down the runway, they shared with me that they were flying beyond Baltimore on to New York to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary with their daughter and various family members. As we took off, I looked down and noticed they were holding hands. Imagine the life they’ve led!
So as my sister and her fiancé head into their nuptials and my husband and I near our 11th anniversary, I was inspired to finish that darn dress. Everything should be perfect because you only have opportunities like this once in a lifetime.
When the couple settled in with their paperback mysteries, I was a little disappointed. I also again regretted forgetting my own paperback and settled back with Spirit, Southwest’s in-flight magazine. July 2011 was dubbed “The Awesome Issue” on its cover. Quite self-congratulatory I thought initially. It contained the usual travel fare of far-off and not-so-far-off destinations. Smack dab in the middle began the awesomeness.
Page 87 was a full-page picture of a college wrestler arms raised victoriously after winning the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship standing with the referee. I didn’t think much of it until I read the deck: “This three-time All American athlete won the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship in his weight class. And he did it with only one leg.”
What?!?! I did a double take of the picture and sure enough, Anthony Robles of Arizona State University had just one leg. The story went on to note that he nearly quit the year before after only coming in seventh until an envelope stuffed with letters from third-graders in Georgia arrived cheering him on. “I didn’t know how much my wrestling meant to people,” the article quoted Robles as saying. Sometimes we all can get too focused in our own little worlds and miss the big picture. And the fact that Robles maintained such humility where many lesser athletes would not have is itself humbling.
The magazine featured a series of people doing innovative or amazingly odd things, but this article was absolutely the one that stuck with me. I’ve been so fortunate in my life to make a happy, healthy family and, corny as it might sound, to find my way to the credit union industry.
I figured if a one-legged man could win a national wrestling championship, I could plunk out a column that might have some meaning for credit unions.
Credit unions across the nation and around the world are doing amazing things for some amazing members with programs like Homes for our Troops. Others like the CU Philanthropy Group partner with outside groups so credit union employees can build teamwork while creating functioning prosthetics for landmine victims. Massive projects like this can attract huge media play for credit unions, which they need to raise awareness among potential credit union members to continue to spread the credit union gospel.
But the heroes and the work don’t always have to be big and flashy. Maybe you notice a single mom who has a used car loan with your credit union and brings in paychecks from two different jobs. She’s been timely on the payments for nearly two years, so give her a month off from payments or use a payment to start a savings account for her family.
Or you notice a school teacher who constantly talks about his students when visiting the branch and his credit card purchases are tracking all the best deals at the school supply stores. Return the funds.
Credit unions are one of the few industries that can get away with a lot of social do-goodism. It is your business. Take advantage of this special industry to give once in a lifetime recognition to everyday heroes and inspire.