Standing Inside the Fire

A Message from Mary Kemper, President & CEO

Had I the privilege to address our membership last week, that would have been part of my remarks. I would have urged you to use your UMA network to reach out to one another to partner, grow your impact, stretch yourself, and find new ways of doing your work. I am grateful for all our presenters who had invested time and effort in sharing their expertise for our meeting. We will be looking for ways to share that content in the coming months.  

Today, our members have become REACH experts. This heart-wrenching pandemic, which has upended lives in so many ways, has stretched you and your organizations’ energy and resources in ways we never would have wished. With a tremendous jolt, it has forced innovation, collaboration, and fast-paced skill-building. As our new UMA Chair Steve Fetyko has reflected many times in recent weeks, “We’re flying the plane as we build it.”

You continue to demonstrate true grit, determination, compassion, and ingenuity. I am in awe of you. And that brings me to part two of my remarks, which is ever more relevant today: our UMA and EAGLE flames symbolize your passion for the people you serve, and the faith that guides us.

Popular country artist Garth Brook’s song, “Standing Outside the Fire,” speaks to me about the meaningful work you do:

We call them cool,
Those hearts that have no scars to show…
We call them fools
Who have to dance within the flame…

But you got to be tough when consumed by desire
‘Cause it’s not enough just to stand outside the fire

This song is not just about love, it’s about people who – despite the challenges – run into the fire, toward those in need because they commit fully and care deeply.

Life is not tried it is merely survived, if you are standing outside the fire…

Each of you have committed to stand inside the fire. You are taking risks, stepping into the uncomfortable, and persisting in uncertainty. You choose not to give up. Through our collective work, our fire grows and becomes brighter than we could have imagined.