National Day of Service is here again. This year, January 18th marks the Martin Luther King Day national holiday, and the day designated a national day of service as a way of honoring Dr. King’s life and legacy.
National Day of Service has been recognized by Congress since 1994, but it may have been truly popularized last year when President Obama, on the eve of his inauguration, re-declared the day and provided energy and resources toward getting people involved in the service of helping others.
Last year, our family decided to contribute by serving at Muir Woods National Monument. With a group numbering a few dozen people, we raked and cleared dirt paths and cleaned moss and mud from between the planks of the boardwalk that leads into the park. Rangers told us this is something they do twice a year. It felt great to help them and this treasure of a national park, and to contribute our efforts to a stunning, natural place that so many visitors enjoy and that happens to be near our home. Muir Woods and the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy, in the San Francisco Bay Area, have a web page where one can find volunteer opportunities for National Day of Service and other times. The National Park Service also has a page where you can search for volunteer opportunities at national parks around the country.
Last year, we also learned of a local book drive and Anna chose some books she no longer wanted, which were donated to a children’s library in a struggling neighborhood. It was wonderful to imagine other young readers discovering books we had all enjoyed and gotten a lot out of.
This year, of course, a lot of attention is on helping the people of Haiti recover from a devastating earthquake. There are fundraising and other efforts underway. One thing children can do to feel empowered in helping Haiti is to hold a bake sale or other sale to raise money for organized relief efforts.
There is also no shortage of opportunity to help people everywhere with food, companionship, mentoring, building, and otherwise committing some time, energy and goods, for the day of service, a day in the future, or a period of time. A great place to research service opportunities is the serve.gov website, which offers information by locality, as well as information about helping Haiti.
This is a good web site to read or hear Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches and learn more about him. Dr. King said, ”Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’ A simple day of service can be a very meaningful way for family and community members to come together in the act of doing something for others and remembering what this holiday is about.
Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Lynn Mueller