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Executive Director's Message - Blessed To Be a Blessing

by Stephen J. Gehlert, Executive Director

Our church recently had a capital campaign called "Blessed to be a Blessing."
The idea of the campaign was to give away our resources to the community which would evolve into a community center and three complete mission teams being sent to Asia.

This campaign made me think seriously about the idea of being blessed and our responsibility to bless others, especially as it relates to funeral service.
Recently I read the following quotes which I believe to be very interesting:

* If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head, you are richer than 75% of the world's population.

* If you have money in the bank and spare change in a dish somewhere or in your wallet or purse, you are among the top 80% of wealth in the world.

* If you can attend a church meeting without fear of arrest, harassment, torture or death, you are already more blessed than 3 billion people in our world.

* If you can hold someone's hand, hug them, or touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer a healing touch.

I once heard a speaker at a national convention remark the simple fact we have the ability and resources to attend an event like this makes us more blessed than the vast majority of people who have ever lived.

The truth is, we have so many blessings in our life; Health, Family, Business. Let's take a moment to reflect on these blessings and then let's talk about ways we can be a blessing to others. Our association is blessed because of the following:

OFDA we have one of the largest and most progressive state funeral director associations in the country;
* we have committed and dedicated leadership;
* we have financial stability;
* we have a dedicated professional staff (between the years of 1943 and 2005 we have had three Executive Directors, more than 62 years of continuity);
* we have continuity of staff (six current employees have 10+ years of service);
* we have powerful impact on NFDA with three living past presidents and many who serve on national committees;
* we have strong committee structure (17 committees, 185 serving members); and
* we have the ability to adapt to change.

Our Funeral Homes are blessed because;
* we provide ministry to families;
* we have financial stability;
* ability to adapt to change (FTC, ADA, OSHA, EPA);
* family business; generations working together;
* approval rating of families you serve and more importantly the heartfelt gratitude of families you serve.

Robert Kennedy once said, "There are those who look at things the way they are and ask Why? I dream of things that never were, and ask Why Not?" Where are the areas where we can ask "Why Not?"

For example, we know the terrible financial crunch our state and local governments are in:

Why not fill the void by sponsoring programs the government is vacating?
Why not use our funeral home for language and reading programs? The number one foreign language spoken in the Columbus school system is not Spanish; it is Somali. What are the language needs in your community?
Why not use our funeral homes as counseling centers? Not just aftercare, but job counseling.
Why not partner with schools for tutoring programs?
Why not partner with municipalities and townships to adopt policies regarding indigent burials?
Why not sponsor a day, or one patient in a free clinic?
Why not sponsor an athletic program in your community for the school district?
Why not use our community rooms for education programs on how to write a resume, how to interview, how to develop telephone skills and other business skills?
As we buy new suits for our staff, why not donate old ones to mortuary schools or other groups to help young professionals just starting out?
Why not use our parking lot for a single parent's fair and offer a free oil change, free hair cuts, free legal advice (wills), free car washes?
Why not offer a program in your community for the homeless, disabled or homebound offering rides to church, to a physician, delivering meals?
Why not invite physicians and their staff (office managers) to lunch in order to improve and explain to them the new requirements for death certificates?

I once heard someone talk about the difference between a fad and a trend. A FAD is something people talk about such as TV shows, books, styles of clothing; a TREND is something people do.

It has been a common enough FAD over the past 10 years for the public to talk about the perceived problems of funeral service like high costs, feeding frenzy of the 90's and Noble, Georgia. However, funeral service has survived and prospered because of your work in setting TRENDS. Trends such as rushing to families in the middle of the night, projecting compassion at all times, and most recently, courageous response to 9/11 attacks and the Noble, GA horrors.

For the Ohio Funeral Directors Association and for every funeral home in the state, I have a dream:

* That we become trendsetters for funeral service throughout the entire world by embracing some or one of the ideas discussed in this message.
* That we partner with our cities, villages, and townships to improve quality of life for every resident.
* That we partner with our communities by leading a move to embrace racial diversity and make new citizens feel welcome.
* That we partner with out communities by voluntarily filling gaps left by government cut-backs.
* That we partner with our communities by always being the "Go To" individuals, the doers, the innovators, the trendsetters.

I believe the reward for recognizing our blessings and then using them to bless others is nothing less than a changed world, and in return you, your families, and your businesses will continue to be blessed so you can serve your neighbors in incredibly powerful ways.
Remember, we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we GIVE!

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