A celebration of service

Welcome Jerde stands amid all the donations collected for YouthLink on Jan. 21. Credit:

The National Day of Service project at our house surpassed our expectations. Why? We are a generous people. No, not me and my family. Our community. You guys.

Most of the time, we don’t take the initiative to act on our generosity because we’re all so busy. Families, work, rush hours, kid’s activities, grocery shopping, homework, families, making meals, washing clothes, and did I mention families? So, how do we more easily become the generous people we are deep down with all these time constraints?

Four years ago President-Elect Obama asked everyone to do something on MLK Day. I organized a collection drive with the help of my family. It was wildly successful, so I decided to try it once a month for a year. Which brings us to this year’s National Day of Service—our 49th month of service in a row.

That’s where “Service Works—Changing the world one month at a time” comes in, an organization that grew out of that first year of projects. We make service to our community easy. We tell people what, where, why, and how. They show up. Every month. For four years.

We’ve put together email lists, made a Facebook page, and included people from our churches. What do we do? We organize an assortment of projects that may involve donating great stuff from our homes (clean those closets!), pulling buckthorn or some such physical work, expressing our creativity through functional art projects, or providing meals for people.  In the summer, we have virtual projects like patronizing immigrant-owned restaurants and businesses, a perennial favorite.

Do we solve homelessness, hunger, or poverty?

No.

Do we do good in the community?

Yes.

This all ties back to the weekend we just celebrated with the Presidential Inauguration as the centerpiece. Our President exhibits his solidarity with service by doing it and promoting it.

This month we were humbled, as we often are, by others’ generosity. Remember, this was the really, really cold weekend.  Bags of warm clothes and coats and scarves and mittens and more came into our houses.

People found us on the National Day of Service website, while others knew of the collection through our regular lists. Early Monday morning, a Somali man with his young son came with many bags of donations. They left quickly saying they’d be back. Mid-day they returned with more incredible bags of clothes. Just after the Inauguration speech and spectacle, a woman appeared with bags of items from her son’s closet and hers. It was somewhere below zero and totally wretched outside. She returned a few hours later with a bag of new gloves, and then helped me sort, fold and count donations for 90 minutes. Oh, she’s unemployed, looking for work, and yet took time to help others less fortunate. Another woman asked her friends to participate. With their combined resources, they purchased 40 new backpacks (the homeless youth carry their belongings in backpacks). I could list scores of remarkable stories to fill column after column of this paper.

We know you are a generous people. You show us every single month. When I’m fed up with the logistical nightmare of what I started, another project happens and I see the love in giving, the spirit regardless of circumstances, and the need to keep it going.

Thank you for changing the world each and every month.

(If you’d like to be added to the Service Works email list, send a note to [email protected])