541-773-5339, 60 Hawthorne Street, Medford OR 97504 office@unitedwayofjacksoncounty.org

The Big Idea.  It means so many things to so many people.  For many of us at United Way, it meant our education initiative to get 100% high school completion for the Class of 2020.  What a weird ending to the 8 years we were with the students who were little kids and all fit on one side of the bleachers at old Central Medford High School at the beginning.  By the 11th grade, they had only grown a little in numbers and a lot of in size when they took up both sides of the bleachers at South Medford High School.  There are so many I came to know personally.  And I treasure each one and the memory of their growing up.  If I began to name names, I’d miss a few and feel badly.  While many more recognized me, I came to really know several of them.

One was this beautiful blonde boy in the 5th grade.  He wore baggy basketball shorts, a t-shirt and untied shoes.  He joined our committee.  He was so smart and brave and curious.  Someone had told him about Oxford University and he wanted to go one day.  He wanted to be a writer.  He was a track star.  He worried about other kids at school and worked to stop bullying when he saw it.  He spoke his mind.  He went on the high school with the other Big Idea kids and ran track still.  He was really good at it.

Real life intervenes even when we’re bright and open and have dreams.  It intervenes when we’re too curious.  It intervenes when life has too many obstacles.  And dammit, we don’t all make it.  Joby didn’t.  We lost him this week to drugs.  I will carry Joby in my heart forever and I am so glad I met him and I’m a better person for knowing him.  The Big Idea was better because of him. 

Please pause for a moment when you read this to remember a bright light extinguished too soon.