learning about community as a kid through my grandpa’s eyes

October 14, 2015 By Tom

I got asked recently by someone, “what’s your earliest memory of charity or community?”

They go hand in hand.

Some of my earliest memories of a kid involve my grandparents, especially both of my dad’s parents. They used to watch me on a regular basis and I’d spend some time at their house every summer with my cousins. They were both pretty amazing people, involved with social work, their church food pantry and volunteer services, St. Vincent de Paul, and a million other things that escape my mind.

yup, in addition to charity and community–between my grandpa and dad, I learned a lot about sports before I could actually talk

I remember being five or six, and in the car with my grandpa driving somewhere to give a basket of food to a family in need. I distinctly remember asking him “how do you know these people?” as they didn’t look like us, they didn’t talk like us, and my knowledge of when you share food seemed to revolve around family holidays and sitting at the giant family table for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

He replied, “it’s the right thing to do. We’re all made of the same things and you help those that need help.”

As I grew older and continued to spend time with them, I noticed that every week my grandpa would get dressed up and head to lunch somewhere, leaving my grandma to watch me for a bit. It always seemed to mysterious of where he headed off too, and whenever I asked, he would say “Downtown Coaches Lunch”. It seemed like the coolest of cool clubs when I was a kid and as I got older, I understood for him it was a chance to go be social and talk with people and see many of his friends who had known for a long time. That image of him walking out the back door to the garage at the Scottwood House has for as long as I remembered, been the mental image of what I define as community and meaningful relationships.

And that, my friends, is something that I often reflect on as I navigate the daily challenges and awesomeness of being a nonprofit founder and director. In the days after my grandfather’s death back in March of 2011, I dug deeper into some of those memories and something that stuck with me was the credo of St. Vincent de Paul: “No Act of Charity is Foreign to the Society.”

What are your early memories of charity and community? Are they also family based?