(EDITOR'S NOTE: Lycoming County United Way is proud to serve the community we call home. Through this column, which will be published on the third Sunday of each month, the organization wishes to bring to light the many definitions of the word "community."
Millions of Americans took a few hours out of their Sunday evening a few weeks back to view the proceedings of a profession and lifestyle they only can experience vicariously.
As the annual Academy Awards show blazed across television sets, the movie industry's tribute to itself was filled with elegantly dressed fan favorites, beautiful people who have distinguished themselves via skillful performances lived out on movie theatre screens across the land.
The winners proudly clutched coveted Oscar statues and expressed their thanks to a cadre of folks who had helped them reach the pinnacle of success. The moment was steeped in irony. Fame and fortune had come their way as these actors and actresses were lauded for their abilities to convince their audiences they indeed were someone else. They were receiving real accolades in an unreal world.
While most viewers could not relate to the lifestyle they were witnessing, the expressions of gratitude actor Matthew McConaughey displayed during his acceptance speech for his performance in "Dallas Buyers Club" brought a refreshing dose of reality to this unreal world. McConaughey offered words from the heart, thanking God for his graces, his mother for her lessons in self-respect and his father for teaching him to be a real man. His speech was emotional and gripping - it was real.
McConaughey's speech reinforces what United Way strives to accomplish on a daily basis. He believes in the science of gratitude. Gratitude, more specifically, in the act of paying it forward.
Researchers have known for years that doing for others is not only good for the soul, but for overall wellbeing. Helping others sparks emotional parts of the brain that can spread like wildfire to eliminate stress, cause better sleep habits and boost the immune system.
Gratitude, however, cannot happen alone. Gratitude happens when communities are working together, helping each other grow and thrive. It's living up to the Golden Rule, "do unto others."
We live in such a community. One in which individuals simply want to see each other succeed. The "needs" Lycoming County United Way speaks so often about are often found right next door. And sometimes, our very own needs are met when the unexpected happens.
LCUW works with 26 service providers on a year-round basis. Directors know all too well the feeling of gratitude. Their lives are spent day in and day out paying it forward to ensure that others may someday have something to be grateful for. They see real problems happening to real people.
Life is short, but one thing is for sure. Getting real about gratitude can help build a better, stronger community for us all.
If you would like to learn more about any of the programs funded by Lycoming County United Way, visit or call 570-323-9448.
Wertz is the Lycoming County United Way's director of resource development and communications.