Monday, January 23, 2012

"What are you doing for others?"

Marin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrated on the third Monday in January (and this year, falling on January 16), is a United States federal holiday honoring the birth of one of the great civil rights leaders of our time. People are asked to use their day off to volunteer in some way to honor Dr. King’s memory. We are challenged to make it a day “on” in service to others.

According to Dr. King, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve… You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Service is an important word around our house this year. My youngest is receiving Confirmation in a few months and is required to complete ten hours of service. (Not much, I know, but significant enough in a 12–year-old’s world.)

Each time we approach this important milestone in our family (this will be our third Confirmation), I excitedly research service projects in our community. I happily sign them up for anything and everything I can, often accompanying them when able. Through the years, we have cleaned up halls and the outside of lockers at a middle school in Philadelphia, organized and sorted clothing at a children’s non-profit organization, cooked meals for those in need and delivered poinsettias to home-bound parishioners.

On their own, my children have helped coach younger children’s sports teams, joined the Service Club at their school, and babysat (for their siblings and/or neighborhood kids) without pay – all in the spirit of giving something of themselves to make the world in which they live a better place.

This year, for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we will be volunteering at our Church, collecting children’s clothing and toys and assembling bags of supplies for refuge children in the United States.

Service to others is always a rewarding experience for our family, and one I consistently vow to continue after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is over, or my children have completed their service hours for Confirmation.

Unfortunately, while I have good intentions, real life kicks in and side tracks us. Between school, work, homework, sports, activities and family obligations, service is often the first thing forgotten.

When this happens, I am often haunted by Dr. King’s question, “What are you doing for others?”

This year, my goal is to be able to answer that question on a monthly, if not weekly, basis. I hope to think about service not just in January, or when my children receive a sacrament, but on a daily basis. I can offer more than one day a year to serving others. Can you?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My New Year's Wish

I desperately wanted to write something inspiring for my New Year’s post. I wanted to compose something profound that would make people stop what they are doing and declare me brilliant and insightful. (Okay, truth be told, I just wanted people to read it.)

So I gathered piles of magazines and read through every “New Year, New You” article I could find (and there were many of them). I scoured the Internet and Facebook, reading countless blogs and friends’ posts, looking for inspiration.

Unfortunately, the more I read, the more anxious I became. Everyone had something to say about the perfect way to start 2012.

I realized that, in the New Year, I needed to:

-Loose weight (and there are no shortage of diets available);
-Wear orange (or tangerine tango, to be more precise, the color of the year);
-Shop small businesses (or I would personally be responsible for the downfall of the local economy);
-Exercise (this could include everything from joining a gym to yoga - or naked yoga, for those adventurous types - to pole dancing);
-Get organized (and not just my closets, but my thoughts, my life and my computer files need de-cluttering as well, I’m told).

I was encouraged to set a reading goal (finally, an idea I can get excited about), cleanse my system with a New Year’s Detox (spoiler alert: it involves avocados) and pick a word/phrase that I wanted to describe the year ahead for me. (“Who knows; who cares; why bother?” came to mind, but that may be a bit morose.)

One woman posted her 2012 resolutions on a Facebook site for all to see:

“Make my own almond milk; cook all my own beans; recycle more; add 5 corporate yoga teaching gigs and 5 more private yoga clients to my weekly calendar and book an international vacation this year.”

Really? That makes my initial resolution (wear matching socks) seem almost foolish, doesn’t it?

The problem with all these resolutions is that by the time we are finished with them, while we may be a better person, we will be too stressed out and exhausted to enjoy our new lives.

So, while it may not be profound or awe-inspiring, I’ve come up with one resolution for myself, and one wish for everyone: peace.

Peace, according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a state of calm and quiet.” That is my word of the year, my New Year’s resolution, and my motto. (It is also my tattoo, but that’s a different blog.)

I wish everyone peace in every area of their lives, for 2012 and the years to come. It may not be as impressive as other resolutions out there, but it works for me, and I hope for you as well. (Besides, how does one go about making almond milk anyway?)