Can We Matter?

When I write, my intent is to speak about the culture of Freedom, our purpose and, if possible, to inspire. I want members and employees to know that we are more than a bank, more than a financial institution. We are a partner; striving to serve and improve the lives of those with whom we come in contact in any way possible. Yet, I look around at the world and I wonder just how much we can do. What role can we play in making our community better, safer, and can that in turn create a better world? Can saving a member money, providing a loan for that first home, educating on how to budget, or providing employment that supports a family, make a difference and set people on a better path? Can that have a positive ripple effect? Can we matter? Tough questions and a grand idea to be sure.

I don’t know if financial institutions think about that a lot. Sure, commercials will say they do. Ads will pull at your heart strings to convince you they are more, but when you look at the profits, the growth, the mergers, etc., it’s easy to question the true motivation. Obviously any business must earn enough to pay their bills, pay their employees, and so on, but how much is enough? Freedom is a not-for-profit and, as such, our obligation is to take care of the same things as any business (infrastructure, salaries, products and services, etc.), but also take earnings and give back in a variety of ways; keeping fees down or eliminating them, maintaining competitive interest rates, reinvesting in the organization and supporting our community. Our earnings do not go to pay a Board of Directors; they volunteer for that role. Earnings do not go to stockholders to make a select few wealthy; they go to the membership. The best part is that how much we can give back is directly impacted by members themselves because the more they do, the more we earn and the more we give back. Seems simple, but it’s not.

See, we don’t believe, as some other financial institutions, in selling things to members they don’t really need or want. We have all the necessary products and services as any bank or credit union, but strive to give something more; a place you can count on and trust. A place that will meet member’s needs, but also talk to them, listen to them, and help them make the most out of their finances and decisions. It would be great if the world worked more like a credit union. Where people came together to support one another, do the things they do and use the things they use every day and, as a byproduct, help others as well as themselves. Where the greater good is placed above the individual. A member’s value at Freedom is not based on how much money they have on deposit or what position they hold in life. We don’t set out to offer the best products, rates or services for a select few. Our goal is to provide the best we can for all members.

Our mission is “to be a trusted partner by creating a culture of people helping people that meets the needs of our members and the communities we serve”. So, whether you’re an employee, a member, or both, if you want more out of your credit union, do more with your credit union. You’ll get more than you realize.


The Choices We Make

My mom used to always say, “everything happens for a reason”. Man that used to bug me. I mean, it’s a good way to look at life, but it sure isn’t easy to just sit back with a la-de-da attitude when life is crashing down around you. In that moment, it’s very hard to see the purpose or the “big picture”. You can think of so many things that happen and ask yourself; Why does this happen? What possible good is there in this? I can’t answer that. No one can really. Maybe it isn’t even about finding a reason. Perhaps it’s more about believing, trusting, that some greater good will come, that there is a method to the madness. It’s a way to stay sane.

Here’s the thing though. Whether it be big issues or something smaller, we can make a difference in the effect they have on us and others. Seriously. It’s completely possible for humans to have a positive impact on each other and the world around us. We just don’t. We make the choice to do or not do. We can give $10 to charity or buy a pizza. We can save energy or waste it. We can help or ignore. We can forgive or hold a grudge. It’s all about choices. Now nobody is saying you have to be perfect all the time. That you have to give every penny you have to charity or donate all your food to a shelter. What I’m saying is, just make a difference some times. Of course, it goes beyond those tangible things we think about when we are trying to do good or help others. It can be how we treat people or what we say. It can come from out of the blue and have an impact you may never see. After all, it’s not about the recognition or the tax write-off, it’s the why behind it all.

This past July I went to visit my daughter and on a whim I decided to take her to the Magic Kingdom for a day. I was in Florida, Mickey was only two hours away; how could I not. What was I thinking! Disney, in July, 100 degrees and wall to wall people. Anyway, we were waiting in line for a ride and I noticed this guy appear in various places. When I first noticed him he was several people behind me, then he was ahead, further and further, in different spots.  He had a backpack that looked empty and was constantly looking around. There were a couple things that went through my mind and as the line moved, ever so slowly, I kept an eye on him. Finally, the line wrapped in such a way (you know how they do) that even though he was well ahead of me in line he was close in proximity and I had an unobstructed view. He looked around nervously as he approached a trash can.  It was next to him, but ahead in the line with a chain dividing the two. He pretended to throw something away and stepped over the chain cutting ahead, once again, of a number of people who had been sweltering in the line for almost an hour. Don’t ask me why, but I started making my way over, leaned up against the wall next to him and said, “Whatcha doin?” He was surprised.  Huh?”, he said. I said, “Why are you jumping line?” He said. “I’m not. I’m just holding a place for family.” “Dude”, I said, “you were behind me and I watched you cut the line 5 times. Do you think that’s fair to all these people, all these kids? It’s the Little Mermaid ride!”  He said, “People have been doing it to me all day.” I leaned in, looked him in the eye and said, “So? Be better than them. You can be better than them.” His head dropped and he said, “Yea, you’re right.” Well I don’t know if he meant it, but his demeanor changed and I didn’t see him cut the rest of the time. It may have made no difference to him, but it made a difference to me, my daughter, and to a few people around me that were surprised I didn’t get killed.

Taking action, any action, to improve the world around us is everyone’s responsibility. This is why Freedom has chosen to have a community outreach initiative. The littlest thing, the smallest amount of money, the simplest act of kindness, the right word at the right time can make a difference both big and small. You won’t necessarily see buildings erected in our name, we probably won’t be on the cover of Time magazine, we won’t be cutting a check for a million dollar donation, but we will always do what we can, where we can because it’s not about the what, it’s about the why. I may never approach a stranger in line again, but I will find ways to make a difference or stand up for others. You may not be able to give money to a cause, but you can spend a couple hours cleaning a park or take a couple cans of soup to a food bank. You never know who the action will help, what child you will feed or how it will be paid forward in the future.

You can be the voice, you can make a difference; at your job, in your home, in your community. That’s what we mean by our Mission Statement that reads: “Freedom’s mission is to be a trusted partner by creating a culture of people helping people that meets the needs of our members and the communities we serve.” Join us. Be part of it. Belong to something special.