There is no place that has more caring and concerned and loving members of its community than here in Switzerland County.
As a family of community members, our people have always run to the aid and the assistance of those in need. Over and over again people have given of their time, talents, and they money to help someone who has suddenly found themselves in a situation that they cannot overcome alone.
There’s a saying in the sport of boxing: “Don’t lead with your chin.”
Here in Switzerland County, we tend to “Lead with our hearts”.
And – every once in awhile – our hearts get hurt.
Our hearts are broken.
Almost like a volunteer fire department, when members of our community “hear the siren” of someone in trouble, we rush to their aid. I am reminded of the phrase I heard when the tragedy of 9/11 happened: “When others were running from the danger; brave others were running towards it.”
And, because our community is so compassionate, when that happens, the hurt and the betrayal are felt even more.
That has happened here; and it doesn’t feel good.
All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but all indications point to the probability that many members of our community – individuals and organizations alike – have been the victims of a great and grand fraud.
You know the names and the charges, you’ve heard them over and over by now. They are included on the front page of this issue, because it is important that people have reliable and comprehensive information from law enforcement and others.
I don’t want to take time today to talk about charges.
I want to talk about people.
If you’re like me, there’s a sick feeling in your gut that you can’t seem to make go away. You think about how we cared and how we helped, all apparently done for individual gain, not a charitable cause.
Many people, from those who gave through social media channels, to churches and endowments; and those who simply saw a need and reached into their pockets – all stepped forward; and have now been knocked down.
Switzerland County: please get back up.
Because we are all we have, and we need to take care of each other.
Unfortunately, this incident causes ripples across the community that reach far beyond this young woman and her crime.
There will soon be another member of our community, and that person or that family will find themselves in trouble, medically or financially or both – and loving and caring people will again reach out and call on all of us to help.
And when that call comes, when we again “hear the siren”, we have to “jump on the truck” and rush to their aid.
What I fear is that we as a community will instead – pause.
And we’ll remember this moment.
And we’ll assess our fears of again being taken advantage of.
And maybe – just maybe – we’ll come to the conclusion that it isn’t worth the risk.
We can’t let that happen.
As scary as it may be to move forward, we have to; because there will soon be new members of our community who need us; and we have to be ready to help.
The greatest tragedy that can hit this community is not that we were all duped, but it will be if we all stop caring about each other. Should we be more careful? Probably, but I would venture to say that at one time or another, we’ve all had a family member or a neighbor or a friend who has needed us, and we’ve led with our hearts.
As a person of faith, there are times when I have felt conflicted about what I should or should not do with regard to persons or families asking for help. Our funds aren’t unlimited, but more and more people are directed to churches for help, and when that happens, we have a decision to make:
Do we help, or do we walk away?
From my perspective, I don’t want to stand someday in front of my Lord and have Him ask, “Those people needed help. Why didn’t you help them?”
Do we get taken every now and then? Yes, we do. Were we taken in this incidence? Yes we were.
But my faith also tells me that the person doing the deception also has to answer for that one day.
I’ll leave that judgment to a Higher Power.
I am also aware that there are family members of the accused who are still a part of this community; and they shouldn’t be the target of anger or accusations; but rather should be seen by this community as fellow victims, as well. Ultimately, they are the ones who still must be a part of this community – a part of this family – and I’m guessing they could use an understanding hug more than an accusatory stare.
The justice system will eventually give us just that – justice; but as a community we should also remember that we are also called to be the granters of mercy – just as we have been granted mercy.
Soon, this community will “hear the siren” and we’ll all run to the scene, just as we should. Will we be the victims of a fraud again? Perhaps.
But the real crime will be us not helping each other again.
Don’t let that happen.