As a freshman in college, I joined the line with all the other students, signing up for a Pell Grant and other financial aid options offered by the university. Despite having been told the importance of financial awareness and a cash-based approach to life, the paperwork I signed didn’t cause me anxiety or stress. I looked around and saw hundreds of other students doing the same thing, so it felt normal to sign a piece of paper and go into debt.
Four years flew by and as I started my first job (like most young people), I felt excited and hopeful, even though I was still living with my parents while I worked to build my cash balance. At dinner one night, my dad shared some news.
“Bec, we have some good news, your mom and I.”
“We’re getting a new puppy?” I teased.
“Hah! No. But you are about to be the recipient of something that’s been in the works since before you were born.”
Then they shared that my grandparents had begun to save for our education years before we were born. Me and my siblings would each get $5,000 to apply to any debt accumulated before the interest started building up. I was stunned. It was 1987 and $5,000 seemed like a lot of money – it would cover all the debt I had and leave me with a few hundred dollars I could use for whatever.
My parents handed me an envelope with a check in it and I thanked them profusely. At that moment, a weight lifted. I felt light and unburdened, like a door that had been closed to me was now open. I went to our light blue rotary phone and called my grandfather to thank him. He shared that the money had been there since my grandmother had died in 1982, but that he’d asked my parents not to tell us about it until we graduated so that we wouldn’t make youthful decisions that we might regret. He wanted the money to help us start our independent lives with no or less debt than we might have otherwise. I could hear the emotion in his voice as he said, “Your Grandmother would be so proud of you for getting your undergraduate degree.” I bit my lip as my eyes filled with happy, appreciative tears.
Since that moment, I’ve had more people who’ve allowed me to connect the dots with everything I have or have gotten to experience. There are so many individuals I’ve known and not known who played a role in my education. My great-grandparents, for example, instilled a mindset that education is the key to more opportunities. Teachers, friends, administrators, deans, professors and authors had a direct or indirect impact on me.
Connecting those dots helps me serve as a positive ‘dot’ for other people. I try to make being with me or connected to anything on which I have influence fun and easy. When I give back without any strings attached – just because – it has a positive impact on my mindset and inspires me to do more when someone recognizes, like I did, that someone did something to help them.
As a company, we get to experience the joy students feel when they learn that an organization is supporting their educational future. I imagine the teams at our client organizations and all those who know and love the person receiving the financial support. It’s a huge group of people doing and supporting others and the result, at least to me, is a feeling of kindness, hope and a bright future. In December of 2023, that might sound a bit Pollyanna. There are terrible things going on in the world, yes, but there are also wonderful acts of kindness and generosity. I choose to believe that the more we connect the dots of kindness, the more energy people will have to lean towards being nice, supportive and open to sharing a resource they have with someone who needs the connection.
– Becky Sharpe, CEO