Texts, email, social media--in a society that feels over-connected, this time of year many of us crave more meaningful connections. Prior to joining Western Union, checking in with distant loved ones was prompted by the aroma of a Thanksgiving turkey or a birthday reminder on my calendar.
Today, helping people connect is the core of what I do, and I get to learn this skill from some of the very best.
Every day I learn from what some could say is the world's fifth most populated nation, the approximately 232 million migrants around the world.
Take closer look at who makes up this nation: In the U.S. alone, 40 percent of the largest companies were founded by its citizens or their children; it has a disproportionate amount of U.S. Nobel Prize winners and entrepreneurs. And, globally, its population has grown by 50 percent since 1990.
Its borders are open to all. Money, ideas and knowledge flow freely between its citizens.
But it doesn't have a national anthem. There is no elected government. And you can't point to it on a map.
These statistics although impressive, don't even begin to size up the "Dual Belonger" who make up this population. The "Dual Belonger" is a person who is from one place and lives in another, but their heart belongs in more than one place.
It's hard to quantify, really. You know it when you are one; you know it when you meet one. When you are as proud of your heritage as you are of where you may currently live. It's when you make a difference in multiple places at once.
Sometimes you are separated by thousands of miles and you've made the sacrifice, along with your family, to migrate away from home to provide a better life for your loved ones. Or perhaps, you've only migrated from East to West within the United States. Regardless of the distance, you know who you are, and you know that feeling and that impact you make in two worlds.
As a first-generation American, with all my family ties back in Ireland, I know this feeling. My parents are from Ireland and are the only ones in our family who have moved away from the Emerald Isle. The personal sacrifices they made to provide for a better life for their children and the ties that bind us to my family back in Ireland are powerful ones, transcending four decades of my life.
Working at Western Union, I have had the honor and privilege to be surrounded everyday by the true meaning of Dual Belonging through our customers. They are amazing. They are our heroes. I still remember early in my days at Western Union, a wonderful woman from Jamaica was asked the simple question of why she sends money back home. She didn't say for groceries, for housing, for medical expenses. She simply stated, "it's just what you do - you help out, you make a difference in all ways you can. Family is everything, that is just what you do." I've continued to hear these same words ring true with thousands of Western Union customers over the years.
Dual Belongers are a rare and powerful breed - a united nation regardless of borders, culture or creed. I am very proud to be part of a global network of approximately 515,000 Agent locations across more than 200 countries and territories, as well as digital and mobile channels, all with the single mission to help our customers truly move money for better.
It is important to me that we strive to connect our customers with their loved ones whenever and wherever they need in nearly all corners of the globe, whether it is around Dec. 25 or on any given Tuesday in August.
It is their stories that inspire me to remind those in my life that they have my support no matter how far apart we live.
Don't wait for a date on the calendar to make an effort to reach out to family and friends; just like our customer said: "Make a difference in all the ways you can" any day of the year.