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This time of year is filled with seasonal change.  The leaves have changed colors and will eventually fall. The weather is unpredictable – hot one day and cold the next. I find myself keeping several “just in case” items in my car due to the seasonal change like a raincoat, a heavier jacket and even t-shirts!

Families are preparing for the holidays while retailers are displaying their goods anticipating the holiday shoppers.  A lot of our focus this time of year is spent on reflection of the past year and planning for the next few weeks as the year draws close to an end.

You witness people walking casually downtown Franklin with their branded cup from Starbucks – the message this year is to “GIVEGOOD” suggesting that we consider others.

For many in Williamson County the idea of giving doesn’t need to be triggered by retailers because it’s simply a way of life here.  We live in one of the nation’s wealthiest counties and are fortunate to be guided by some of the best non-profit leaders in Tennessee.  

As an example, New Hope Academy is celebrating more than 20 years of intentionally educating students from all walks of life with a private school classical education because Paige Pitts saw a need and decided to create a solution.  

I Am Second which is nestled a few doors down from Starbucks has reached over a billion people since its inception several years ago with its social media campaign of influencers and everyday people with the message of hope and understanding that Jesus is first and we are second.  We have all seen the marketing approach to reaching the lost via social media, billboards, television and radio ads … and its working.  

On any given day you can find a representative from the Gentry Educational Foundation tirelessly serving grade school students after school and giving them additional academic support to ensure their success.

And while you might not believe it, we have people here in Williamson County who lack the basic sustenance of life – food.  Chris and Elaine Whitney with their nonprofit, One Gen Away, spend their days sourcing and distributing food to those who are hungry, yes here.

The list goes on and on, whether the nonprofit’s focus is children, seniors, animals or just humans needing a hand up. And this time of year, many of you may be receiving party invites or year-end requests to give financially to support all the great non-profits in Williamson County. However, for me I’m thinking a lot about our country and our community.  

I think about all the transition 2017 has brought for so many, representing both joy and pain.  I think about the devastation of the families in Houston and Puerto Rico from hurricanes and the fact they are still struggling and living without basic neccessities.  

I think about the senseless shooting in Vegas of innocent concert goers and the church shooting in Nashville of Sunday morning worshipers.

I think about the countless of people, who for them, this is not a happy season, but a painful reminder of loss and devastation.  

I think about our race relations as a country and the need for real conversation.

I encourage you this season to give.  Give the gift of love. Give a hug to someone who needs a hug. Give forgiveness to someone who you may think is unforgivable. Plan a visit to someone that would appreciate having company.  Share your gift of hospitality and invite someone to your home and experience some good ole fashioned conversation and laughter but don’t invite technology to attend!

Be present and available for your loved ones.  Slow down this season and just enjoy the moment.  Don’t miss this moment because you can never get it again.  

When you see that homeless man or woman on the corner don’t avoid eye contact, give them a smile or roll down your window to see how you can serve them.  When you pass that stranger during your daily rituals a simple smile and hello is a priceless gift to share.  

Yes, we live in a wealthy county and have access to so much and yes, it’s important that we give to all the amazing nonprofits to make sure they all continue to do their greatwork.

I encourage you to find that nonprofit that speaks to your heart and give. If you can’t write a check, give your heart. Give you. Humanity is a gift; search your heart and do your part. Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. 

Give good … 

Louis Upkins, a native of Middle Tennessee, is the author of “Treat Me Like A Customer” and “Unprepared” and a consultant and national speaker focused on leadership development.

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