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.
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Once upon a time, a man stood and spoke of a dream.
He inspired others to dream of a better world. To be better themselves.
Five years later another man shot him.
Less than two weeks ago a man opened fire in Tucson, Arizona.
A number of people were killed, among them a little girl, born just one town over from us.
We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we’re doing right by our children, or our community, whether our priorities are in order.
We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -– but rather, how well we have loved — and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better…
We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that’s entirely up to us.
-Barack Obama, Tucson memorial
Four years ago some jerkwad kids tipped over a porta-potty under the I-95 bridge in Wilmington, just down the street from my house. Probably on a dare. Maybe to show some bravado. Who knows.
A DART bus driver was inside. He was paralyzed as a result.
He’s 14. Which means he was 10 at the time.
Which means he managed to ruin his life before he even started really living it.
These incidents are by no means equal, or parallel, or comparative. They’re just all on my mind today. I feel like we- just humankind, in general- are hurting, raw, like a scabbed wound that has been freshly broken open.
It’s just too much. Too much bad news in the world lately and I want to stay in bed in the morning.
But I can’t. I have to get my kids to school in the morning. Drag my carcass out of my safe place, put on my happy face. My daughter wants to know if there really are bad men in the world. If they have guns. If they can get us.
I tell her that yes, there are bad men. And yes, sometimes they have guns. But that also there are good people, who love her and protect her. I tell her that the good people far, far outnumber the bad people.
I change the subject. I speak of silly things, of beautiful things, I point out all the wondrous things in the world. I can’t stop thinking about what I have said. Whether I am a liar.
I want the world to be a better place. I want to make it that way by any means possible. I want my kids to live in a world that is beautiful and good and a damn sight better than the one I’m living in today.
I have a dream.
I want people to sit up, snap out of it. Maybe I’m projecting my own mental funk onto them, I don’t know. But I log on Facebook every day and I see a whole hell of a lot of complaining. I do it too. Here we’ve made a place where we can all be together, hang out, share stories and pictures and news, and most of what I see is bitching about things that can’t be changed.
The weather. A virus. The fact that somehow, inexplicably, it’s Monday. Again.
[Side note: approximately 1/7 of your life is Monday. Quit pissing away 1/7 of your life complaining about what freaking day it is.]
There are a great many things that can be changed. Easily. For the better. Think if, every day, we did one of those things. And we posted that every day along with all our other various sundries. Think how wonderful that would be, scanning down a list of amazing and unique ways our friends and family and neighbors and internet associates make the world a better place.
I have a dream.
But, of course, I have no control or influence over what other people do, and while I am content to climb up onto my soapbox here in my personal space, I’m not going to call out people I do love and appreciate (really, I do) over completely normal behavior in a public forum.
I’m tired of feeling sad and helpless. I need to do something.
What I can do is change my own habits, my own life. (Again.)
This time I’m taking the kids with me.
Today is MLK Day, which has been declared a day of service. Thousands of people everywhere took advantage of a day off to help their community in some way.
Well, you already know how I feel about Valentine’s Day. And Mother’s Day. And Earth Day. Show your wife and your mom how you feel every day, dammit, and keep your Hallmark cards to yourself. Show some consideration for the world you share with every other person on earth and plan to one day bequeath to your children- every day. It’s nothing to celebrate, just good manners.
And for once someone agrees with me. In a manner of speaking. Stick with me here.
In honor of the 25th anniversary of the King holiday, a challenge has been issued. Recognizing that service is not something we have a holiday for and forget about the rest of the year, but something we should strive to make an everyday part of our lives.
25 acts of service, of giving of yourself, to people in need, to your community, over the course of the year.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is:
‘What are you doing for others?’
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The website lists 75 ideas to start you off, but the sky is the limit. Possibilities offered are things like write a letter to a soldier. Deliver meals to homebound seniors. Clean up litter from a park. Give blood.
Things that my kids can easily do, or at least help out with. Chances to do good for others. To see the good, the humanity, in others.
And in themselves.
Look, we can give and give and give stuff to our kids. Toys. Lessons. Sports. Trips. We don’t give them nearly enough opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life. To see themselves as vital, helpful. Good.
(I’m not saying that’s why we should help people. But it’s a lovely perk, is it not? Why deprive them of that feeling? How can it be wrong to want to be a better person?)
I just want charity, help to those who will not likely be returning it, to be second nature to them. Normal. A given. Not just one day out of the year, but whenever the opportunity presents itself. And if it doesn’t? We go looking. I bet we don’t have to go far.
So. 25 acts of service. We’re talking two a month, with a bonus act of kindness for Christmas.
It makes me want to cry, that such a thing is considered a challenge. Our world is seriously effed up.
But I like lists and goals and challenges, so awaaaay we go.
Come with us?
Tell me: what good thing have you done today?
Make a rule, and pray God to help you keep it,
never, if possible,
to lie down at night without being able to say,
“I have made one human being, at least,
a little wiser, a little happier, or a little better this day.”
** P.S. I did not take this bottom photo. It’s from a stock image site. Here’s the source. **