Understanding and Community Building Is My Livelihood

Culture, Humanities

A timely blog written by Humanities Nebraska Foundation Board Member and Nebraska Cultural Endowment supporter Ellen Lierk of Alliance, NE on why being a part of HN is important to her .

My support for the arts and humanities has been longstanding.  I have a degree in history (Creighton University 1974) and a life-long love of reading and travel.   Importantly, the world is a better place when cultural understanding and celebration of the best in humans is paramount. I liken the work of humanities groups to spreading seeds of knowledge, understanding, celebration, community, and peace.  My need to personally spread those seeds by support for the Nebraska Cultural Endowment was solidified through events that our family could never have imagined happening to us.

 June 12, 2012 began as an ordinary day that became life-altering for our family.  For that was the day Andy, a young man in our western Nebraska community, decided to enter our family pharmacy and demand drugs at gun point.  As my pharmacist husband prepared to give him what he asked for, police arrived.  The young man chose to hold my husband hostage for seven and a half hours.  Although Chas escaped, the young drug addict sadly died about six hours after my husband’s escape. 

 In the end (or was it a beginning) the store we had built with more than 40 years of hard work—the store that had stood at its location for more than 100 years, a fixture on the Alliance main street—was completely filled with tear gas and more than 200 bullet holes.  The seemingly random acts of violence that have touched so many lives worldwide had intimately touched our family. 

 In response, we forgave the young man.  We appreciated the many that prayed for us and helped us get our “feet back on the ground” after the incident.  Life continued.  We lived with renewed appreciation of the gift, but with a wound and sadness that will always be a part of our story. 

Violence and division do not get the last word.

 After some time passed, I felt the need to act.  My first inclination to solve the scourge of violence was to fight for intelligent gun control.  Andy’s dad was a gun collector and Andy used semi automatic weapons to carry out his crime.  Access to guns seemed to me to be a part of the United States’ problem of gun violence toward the innocent.  My intention was not to ban hunting or shooting sports, but to keep high-powered, military-style guns out of the hands of those who would do harm.  My opinions were not well-received and rather than help the healing I sought, it caused division.

 About that same time, Chris Sommerich, Director of Humanities Nebraska, called and asked if I would join the HN Foundation Board.  Through this invitation, I had found a way to add to the positive, life- giving energy of our community and state.  While serving, I learned about the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.  The work of these two organizations focuses upon what is best in humanity. 

 The fear, sadness and anger of that horrific day at our store coupled with my value of humanities education motivate my support and involvement in highlighting the best in our people.  The work of these organizations effectively promotes understanding and community building.  Violence and division do not get the last word.

 Chas and I have included a donation to the Cultural Endowment in our will.  In doing so, we hope that the tide can be turned from hurting toward caring for our fellow persons.  We hope that young people will see their inherent value and find expression that does not include drug abuse and violence.  We hope that the legacy of this horrible incident in the life of our family will result in good derived from a celebration of the arts, humanities and cultural pursuits.

The Nebraska Cultural Endowment is more than a nice thing to do; NCE is vital to growing, thriving persons and communities across the state.  Support for NCE is our positive answer to events of an unforgettable day. We have chosen to respond in hope and life by planting seeds that will impact the world beyond our lifetime!

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