We all start on our hands and knees

When my daughter Meg, an aspiring musician at age 18, was describing to Bob Sutherland, founder of Cherry Republic, the launch of her open mic night in Northern Michigan  she said, “I was the only performer who played the first night; nobody else came.”  She added, “But as the weeks went by, more performers began to show up.”

Having started his business selling T-shirts out of the trunk of his car, Bob replied, “If you don’t have a humble beginning, it isn’t a beginning.”

Too often we give up on things much to0 early because we didn’t see immediate success.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Patience and fortitude conquer all things.”

This insight from Bob Sutherland made me think about an early childhood initiative at United Way for Southeastern Michigan, in which we connect new moms  to resources to ensure their children have a full shot at life.

The program began nearly five years ago with a Post-it note on a wall of a meeting room. A team of volunteers and staff were trying to figure out the greatest leverage points in early childhood  and how we could have the greatest impact with the least amount of resources.  This team’s ideas led to the formation of nearly 50 Early Learning Communities, and it experiments with ways to create home environments that are rich with words and books.

An action that can change the life of a child

This year, it has been estimated that 40,000 children will be born in the region, but 40%, or 16,000, of those children will be born into crisis or poverty and will rely on the Safety Net.  We have embarked on some work, building off the Post-it note idea and trial and error, to reach moms at the time of birth with a resource box of tools to proactively offer their children a hopeful beginning.  Simple tools like an age-appropriate book will get delivered each month for the first five years of the child’s life.  Why?  Because we know that reading 20 minutes a day, five days a week can play a major role in ensuring lifelong success.

An early childhood volunteer plus this resource tool kit greet new moms

It would have been easy to leave this idea as just a Post-it note, but through trial and error, the humble beginning has evolved and we’ve gained the confidence to have the fortitude to push onward.  Remember Bob’s insight the next time things don’t look bright as you begin something new:

If you don’t have a humble beginning, it isn’t a beginning.”

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