Group of YMCA volunteers laughing while standing outdoors during a food drive

First Friday Message

No Looking Back

My daughter asked me recently on the drive to school if I missed Pittsburgh.

Before I had a chance to answer, she went on about telling me how she misses her friends, misses her old school, misses her cheer team, and missed the snow, especially over the holidays. I sympathize with much of what she said, but I had to remind her that if she had to shovel the incessant waves of snow that we had in our last winter there, she might not be as nostalgic about the white, fluffy stuff.

Near the entrance of her school, I told her that I loved our time in Pittsburgh, loved our former home, and, yes, I definitely miss my inner circle of friends and colleagues, but I do NOT miss Pittsburgh. Looking a little confused and disappointed, I explained to her that I generally take the position of always looking forward to the next growth opportunity, and I spend precious little time looking back.

With the mindset of looking forward, I recently shared a gospel song in a YMCA leadership team meeting that has been particularly motivational to me over the years...a song that’s helped me to remain forward-looking through challenging times. The song (with 9+ million views on YouTube), "Encourage Yourself" by Donald Lawrence, starts with a simple and powerful lyric:

Sometimes you have to
Encourage yourself
Sometimes you have to
Speak victory during the test
And no matter how you feel
Speak the word and you will be healed
Speak over yourself
Encourage yourself in the Lord

In the Y, we’ve worked hard to encourage ourselves over the last two years of the pandemic. The Orlando Sentinel recently covered the story of our YMCA’s difficult recovery from the early mandatory closures. In the article, I shared a bit of how we are learning to reinvent ourselves. Nonetheless, the journey through the pandemic has been a painful, frustrating, and exhausting experience for every team member and volunteer at the Y, and I know it has been equally frustrating for many of our members as they wait for a full return to pre-pandemic hours, programs, and services.

Through all of this, what has been most encouraging to me – through these First Friday messages, through my many meetings with members and other supporters, and in the wake of the Orlando Sentinel article – has been the number of people who have reached out to share their Y story, offer words of wisdom, and ask “How can I help?”.

So, in response to that simple and direct inquiry, I’ll be equally direct. If your time and interests allow, consider serving on a local family center board or committee. This is where the real work of community engagement takes shape. And if you and your family are in a position to help others have a YMCA experience, please join me in giving generously to our Annual Support Campaign. At your discretion, contributions can be leveraged across our regional footprint or focused solely at the local family center level.

Thank you all for helping our Y to continue to push forward and for supporting us when the pandemic sought to push us back.

Until next time...

Kevin Bolding, President & CEO
YMCA of Central Florida

The Y. For a better us.®