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Everything Counts…


~by Michael Wilcox

Assistant Director and Program Leader for Community Development / Purdue Extension
Associate Director / North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD)


Every November, our Purdue Extension Community Development team takes a moment to reflect on what they are thankful for, personally or professionally. I always look forward to reading their reflections.

However, this year has been like no other. Period. As such, it makes giving thanks a bit more challenging.

On the one hand, for me, it is relatively easy. Our team has shown strength, resilience, compassion, and empathy. I am so proud of how everyone has responded to these uncertain times and tangibly impacted their stakeholders and communities in so many ways. Thanks to every one of you.

On the other hand, it is hard to escape what has gone on this year and how our nation has reacted.

We continue to struggle through the pandemic as individuals, communities, governments, and healthcare systems seek a consensus course of action. Our economy has shown some toughness and, at the same time, exposed some of its fragility. Social justice has been at the forefront of many people’s minds, but the much-needed dialogue has not yet crossed the gaping divide. And, our democratic institutions are now grappling with a contentious election process.

So what is one to do?

In times like these, I sometimes retreat to music. It can soothe a weary soul, conjure strength, provide the impetus for new ideas, or offer a small clue to an answer you have been seeking.

I was surprised to find one such clue when I stumbled across the 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony (held online, not in person). My GenX heart was filled to the brim to see Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., and T. Rex all receiving well deserved nods this year. Unfortunately, there weren’t any epic performances, just music videos and concert footage.

When the first notes started, I knew the song immediately and realized that it had been many decades since I last heard it.

“The grabbing hands grab all they can
All for themselves – after all
It’s a competitive world
Everything counts in large amounts”

The lyrics are simple enough, and the tune is filled with so much synthy sweetness that the message might pass right by you.

Panic shopping early in the pandemic. People not heeding public health recommendations. Overlooking opportunities to help local businesses. Using self-interest as a singular guide for decision-making. The list goes on…

Over the next few weeks, as we attempt to gather to give thanks alongside family and friends safely, I urge you to think about what really counts.

Where is your sphere of influence?
Who are you helping?
What role do you play in your community?
Why are you making the choices you are currently making?
When will you finally volunteer, donate, dialogue, or get out of your comfort zone?
How are you going to make a positive difference?

Thoughtful answers to these essential questions count, even in small amounts.

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