Sector Solutions: The Value of Saying “YES” when you want to say “NO” by Holly Dusenbery November 2017

Growing up poor and working from the age of 15 to help my family, I always knew I would want to be involved with helping others. However, I  wasn’t sure how to go about this.  You see, I was raised in a large city where you kind of get lost amongst the crowd of people. All I knew at that time was I had a passion to want to make the world a better place. Although we were poor, we were very rich in “helping others” as my family always included those without a place to go for the holidays.  We always had a porch full of people singing and dancing, memories that I will cherish always.  It was this that gave me my inner passion to be a better person and to know that being poor was just a number but being rich was the heart of giving back and/or including others in our family.  

 Until I moved to Iowa 15 years ago, I plugged away at my life where the “desire” to help others got stronger.  We adopted two awesome kids and my life was starting to feel more complete.  However, I was still missing something. I began helping out in the school’s cafeteria, where I saw an incredible amount of food/milk being wasted.  I thought to myself, this has to change but how? YES I wanted to make a change but NO, why open this can of worms and would anyone really listen to me anyway?  With every day that passed and every bag of carrots, whole bananas, etc. kept getting tossed the YES sprang into action.  No more letting the NO paralyze me.  I met with Barb Prather (Director at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank) who helped me get the documentation needed in order to save the foods inside our schools and so that journey began.  All elementaries in the Cedar Falls School district now have baskets in their cafeterias where non perishable food items can be saved and given to children in the free and reduced meal program for breakfast and/or to take home each week.  I am glad I kicked my internal NO to the curb.

Then, my husband was approached by United Way to be a campaign co-chair along with the other CEO of Allen Hospital.  Let’s just say “life changed” as the other CEO was no longer able to fulfill their commitment.  Jack came home and said, “guess what you are going to help me with?”  Needless to say my reaction was shock and disbelief.  I started to panic as I have never had experience with public speaking and the thought of standing up in front of a room full of people petrified me. My initial reaction was NO but deep inside I was screaming YES.  YES, this was my opportunity to fulfill my “desire” but NO I can’t do this.  I didn’t know where to begin. I wanted to stay in my safe zone. It was like learning to walk – put one foot in front of the other. I knew if I didn’t agree to take this opportunity, I would regret it for the rest of my life so I said YES, even though internally I was saying NO.

This YES, turned into being one of the best decisions of my life.  Not only did I get to see first hand the needs within our Community, it got me outside of my box.  It got me out there fulfilling my desire to make a difference.  With every speech the NO kept paralyzing me but when I spoke so passionately about something I believed in, the YES came through.   With time, the YES kept getting louder and the NO started to fade.

This YES, turned into another nonprofit opportunity, my job at the Cedar Valley Nonprofit Association.  When first approached, I was NO way!  I am not ready to commit myself to this on a regular basis as I have two young children at home, and frankly I was exhausted from the United Way campaign and what seemed liked, never ending rallies.  So I struggled with how many of these under privileged people are exhausted with the thought of how to put food on their tables or which bill gets paid this week. My selfishness got put in check real quick and my answer to take the job became YES.  I realized immediately, my decision to take this opportunity was a good one.  It got my foot in the nonprofit world.  It has given me the opportunity to learn and grow.  It has given me the opportunity to fulfill my “desire.”  Another opportunity came my way to take a part-time role within United Way as a campaign associate.  I started asking a lot of questions, of course my initial thought was NO.  How can I keep up with 2 part time jobs, run a family and household, etc. The same struggles others face daily.  Who am I to say NO, so of course I said YES and I am very grateful I did.

There are days where I still think I bit off more than I can chew.  Then I see the difference I am making and it makes the YES out power the NO.  Sometimes in life, it is alright to get out of your comfort zone and have your internal NO’s become YES’s as I am extremely grateful everyday that I chose this path.

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