Today, you will gather around your Thanksgiving table, surrounded by your family and friends and enjoy arguably the most delicious meal of the year.

Hopefully, somewhere between turkey and pumpkin pie you and your loved ones take a moment to honor the things for which you are most thankful.

This simple tradition is one that I cherish. Intentionally celebrating your blessings and identifying what makes you grateful is something that I highly recommend, and what better time than today?

After a lot of thought and reflection, I plan to celebrate being bold and having the courage to be an advocate for change.

Over nine years ago, I took a leap of faith and quit my job as a special education teacher to launch Puzzle Pieces. I saw that my students and their families needed — deserved — something different, something better.

So, I set out to make a change for them. Every day since I made that decision, I have boldly pursued change.

We have created a wildly successful model of placing individuals with disabilities into the local workforce. We offer the region’s only targeted autism programming.

I am on a mission to change this community to be more inclusive and forward thinking when it comes to how we value those with disabilities.

Was I scared about these changes?

Terrified.

But if we don’t have the courage to embrace change, how do we make things better? How do we move forward?

For generations, people have said “this is a great place to raise a family.”

This is a feeling we have built our community on — but the concept of family looks a lot different today than it did generations ago. And just as the idea and structure of families have evolved, so have the things we value.

The Fairness Ordinance and the location of the Confederate statue come to mind.

If we don’t evolve and embrace change, will our children want to live here when they grow up? If we are not embracing new thoughts, new ideas, and new processes will we remain an attractive place to live? Will we continue to recruit new businesses or grow our local economy?

What do you think holds us back from change? In my personal experience, it all centers around fear.

We fear we will not receive the validation from others that we deeply desire.

We fear the vulnerability of not knowing how things will turn out. We fear what people might think of us if we pursue change or what they may think of us if we change our mind.

Maybe we fear the loss of power. Complacency is a comfortable, much safer alternative.

A mentor once told me that leadership is an activity. There is a misconception that leadership comes from a position of power.

But that’s simply not true.

Leadership takes action, which can come from anyone from any walk of life. I watched friends recently take charge and honor the life of the Owensboro native Moneta Sleet, Jr., who was the first Black man to win a Pulitzer Prize.

A group of young professionals had an idea that had never been done before and boldly pursued change. Not only will a commemorative portrait of Sleet be honored throughout the community, but Daviess County Fiscal Court has given organizers $50,000 toward a festival that will take place in 2023 to honor his legacy.

This action is the start of a momentum that I hope we continue. We have some real leaders and heroes in this community. It’s time we come together as a collaborative influence — not to demand, but start modeling it.

That modeled change from our community would make an impact when election time rolls around. I think we observed some of this community influence and action in events produced by Beverly’s Hearty Slice, Halloween at the mall, and now the Christmas parade.

We can’t embrace change by talking about it.

It takes action.

Change is scary.

But it’s not as scary as the alternative.

Our community needs change.

And that takes courage, being bold and, most importantly, it takes action.

That action can start around your Thanksgiving table today.

What change do you want to see in our community? Talk about it. Rally your family and friends. Make it happen.

It’s about time we get out of our own way in order to build a community where everyone wants to live.

Amanda Owen is the founder and executive director of Puzzle Pieces. Follow Amanda’s Blog and podcast Pieces of Me: Perspectives on Inclusion and Acceptance, www.piecesofme.org.

Amanda Owen is the founder and executive director of Puzzle Pieces. Follow Amanda’s Blog and podcast Pieces of Me: Perspectives on Inclusion and Acceptance, www.piecesofme.org.

 

(1) comment

Stephen Duke

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. This is the time when my family and I can get together for dinner and just talk.

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