No two days are ever alike at the CFO. That is one of the things I think our staff enjoys most about working here. One day might be a hospital calling wanting to donate a cadaver (yes, that happened), while another might be a caller wanting to donate a cemetery plot (also true). Collaboration is a part of our mission statement, and maybe we missed an opportunity by not connecting those two callers.
We also have direct relationships with nearly 700 nonprofits across the southern half of Missouri that hold funds here, and have made grants to numerous more. The differences of those nonprofits vary as much as the interests of our donors. I appreciate the passion and dedication of those nonprofits as they selflessly pursue their missions.
One particular conversation I had with a nonprofit director a couple of years ago stuck with me. The organization offers recovery services — and, more importantly, hope — to a very challenged population. Many of the clients have been in prison and have little or no resources to fight the beast of addiction.
When I asked about their work, he told me: “There is nothing in your life experience that the people we deal with could relate to. Your suit and bow tie would probably be an immediate barrier to any conversation you might try and have. I know what it’s like to go visit my father in prison. I was in prison. I can relate to them.” Our conversation reminded me of a favorite phrase attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Who you are speaks so loudly in my ear, I cannot hear what you say.”
Over the past few months, I’ve heard the echo of that conversation as we have an ongoing debate over the efficacy of vaccines. As you know, our neck of the woods is not doing very well with the Delta variant. As I write this, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Springfield have surpassed the earlier December peak. We have had more national attention than I recall ever having … and certainly not the positive kind.
Every day, the information wars continue on what is truth about the virus and the vaccine. I won’t pretend to be an arbiter of facts — I don’t have the credentials, expertise or knowledge to tell you what to do. Who I am is speaking loudly in your ear. The good news, though, is there are folks out there who are. Most of us have had a trusting relationship with a physician or medical professional who has answered our questions about hang nails, sprained ankles and much more serious challenges. They not only have the knowledge and expertise, they have your best interest at heart. Not everyone else does.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done these past 17 months to address the pandemic. But I worry now that it isn’t going to be enough as cases rise. We’ve had answers for many of the challenges. I’m now asking that if you still are looking for answers, just make sure you ask the right questions to the right people.
Brian Fogle is the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.