By Jennifer Reynolds
Women’s Fund of Smith County
As the mother of an only child, I think I’ve probably spent way too much time trying to tellmy daughter all the “right” things to do, “right” ways to act, “right” ways to speak. One recent evening at a dinner with other moms, one of them asked me about my own mother. As I began telling my friend all the wonderful things about my mother, I realized something important that had escaped me the past 14 years of my own motherhood: my mother spent much less time telling me what to do and a lot more time showing me what to do.
One of the most impactful memories I have is the time my mother took my sister and me to pick out an angel from the Angel Tree so that we could purchase Christmas gifts for that child. My mother was a single mom and she struggled financially. But she was always actively looking for ways to help others. This particular year, a friend of my mother’s (who was quite well off) was with us and made a comment about how she could not believe these children would dare to ask for things like video games and Air Jordans (the popular and expensive new athletic shoe that year).
I remember how indignant my mother was on the drive home at the injustice her friend displayed by thinking that some children should not be allowed to ask for Air Jordans, but that it would be okay for other children to do so. Over 30 years later, I can still feel the sting of the tears in my eyes for not being able to afford the Air Jordans. But I also remember that we did purchase gifts for a different child, even though my mother probably went without that year. I learned that no matter how little or how much you have, everyone has something to offer, and even a duty to make their community a better place to live.
Which brings me to the G.I.V.E. program, an initiative of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, that seeks to give area Smith County high school girls the opportunity to make a positive impact in their community. Women’s Fund members will mentor these girls, not with lectures, but with hands-on experiences to research the needs of our community as well as local agencies that are addressing those needs. The young women have an opportunity to raise funds and then choose, together, the organization that will receive their annual grant.
Since its inception in 2014, the G.I.V.E. program has awarded grants to local nonprofits such as Refuge of Light, The Magdalene Home, Hope Haven of East Texas, Building Blocks and Spirit of St. Louis Therapeutic Riding Center. Through the G.I.V.E. program Smith County high school girls have awarded over $20,000 to these exceptional organizations and thus have been able to experience the joy of giving and helping others in their own community.
I think, like for many of us, the “good” parts of me come from examples set by my mother. As I drove home from the dinner with my friends recently, it dawned on me that my mother never TOLD me to be a certain way. She just WAS. She just DID. Moms, teachers, grandmothers, Women’s Fund members: our actions speak louder than words. Our daughters are watching us and absorbing whether they mean to or not. I can only hope to be half the person my mother told me to be and she really never told me anything.
Jennifer Reynolds is a CPA and teaches accounting and taxation at UT Tyler and is actively involved in the Smith County community. She is a member of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, a giving circle that awards annual grants to nonprofit programs that bring positive change to the lives of women and children in our community. For more information about its mission and G.I.V.E. (Girls Invested in Volunteer Efforts), please visit www.womensfundsc.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.