In the United States, today is a day of service meant to honor the life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many people have the day off, so it’s easy to coordinate events for people to volunteer and do good within their community. There are plenty of opportunities to go out and do something specifically for the day. These tend to be small time commitments meant to make the most of the volunteers’ work.
Yet, it is only one day out of the year set aside for helping others. Consider expanding commitments to be a year-round thing if capable, double/triple/quadruple the good throughout the year. It doesn’t need to be every week or every month; if committing once every other month is possible, it still goes a long way to help others.
Making the commitment to do something more has its place, specifically for your health. I’ve already mentioned that there’s a lot of positive health benefits for a person who is generous with their time for others. And being generous to themselves. It also sets a great example for your children to do more within their community when they get older.
Below are some ideas for honoring Dr. King’s legacy throughout the year.
What You Can Do Today
If today snuck up on you, there are things that you can do at the last minute. Service does not specifically need to be at a homeless shelter, building homes, or visiting a nursing home. It can be giving something to a random stranger like a cup of coffee, an appetizer, or a kind word of encouragement if you notice they are struggling.
Consider donating to a charity of choice, or signing up today to volunteer in the near future for something you’ve always wanted to do. The most important thing you do all day is taking that first step towards service within your community.
What You Can Do All Year
If you are a crafty person but unable to make a consistent time commitment, you can help by filling a need someplace by making blankets, hats, or other items and sending them off. This is a particularly great project to do if you have a little one or limited mobility.
If you are a more social person, volunteer regularly at a nursing home or homeless shelter. If you are shy about interacting with people, approach a non-profit and offer your abilities to work on something behind the scenes.
If you’ve always wanted to do something this is the year to try it. I’ve always loved working with wildlife and I’ve wanted to become a certified wildlife rehabilitator, specifically for birds. Volunteering at a local wildlife center will be my first step in getting the experience needed for certification.
Passing Service Down
As the parent of a little one, it’s important to make an example of service and volunteering to Jai. To do this, bringing him to an age appropriate opportunity is a great way to start.
There is science behind the importance of children visiting nursing homes for both sides of the generational divide. The residents get the positive interaction, while the little ones get an appreciation and respect for the older generation.
Bring an older child to a meal packing day for a homeless shelter, or a litter clean up program at their favorite park.
Ask them what they would like to do and if the opportunity doesn’t exist, work with them to create something within the community.
The most important thing is to not force the matter: children should want to perform the service. There may be days where you have to skip out of the commitment because your child is unwilling to go. If you respect their wishes, and perhaps alter your commitments to their new interests, it will make volunteering less of a drudery for them and something they’ll want to continue throughout their life.
Likewise, find something that you love and commit some time to it, but don’t do something you have little interest in because you think it’s what others would like. This is about your interests and sharing those interests with others in a service capacity. There is no right or wrong answer in this equation.
Whether you can commit to one day a year or couple days throughout the year, consider taking the time to work within your community as a means to help others. Not only will you feel better for doing so, but you will help make your community become a better place. Throughout the year.
Image Credit: Dick DeMarsico, World Telegram staff photographer