They Got Served: MLK Day and the Importance of Volunteering


Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, which describes itself as follows:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”

Each year, Americans across the country answer that question by coming together on the King Holiday to serve their neighbors and communities.

The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.

I love the idea of this, especially for the awareness that it raises to young people about the importance of volunteering! Coordinating volunteers is one of the (many) facets of my job with TILT, so I know how difficult it is to get anyone under the age of 25 even remotely interested in the idea of putting effort towards something that they 1) won’t be paid for and 2) that isn’t happening online. Now I know this doesn’t apply to ALL young people, and they’re actually not the ones to blame. In my opinion, it’s more the fault of the parents if their kids don’t pick up the philanthropic gene.

Volunteering was BIG in my family growing up. Earth Day wasn’t complete without us picking up trash on the side of the road, helping serve food at soup kitchens was a perfectly normal way to spend a Sunday, and the more volunteer-centric Girl Scout badges our troop (co-led by my mom) could go after, the better! There is a stark difference between people who were raised to give to others and those who weren’t – it’s obvious when they’re selfish kids and it’s even more obvious when they’re selfish adults. I’m not saying that your every waking moment should be spent for the benefit of strangers, at a detriment to yourself and your family, but it’s never too late to start caring a little more.

The best way to make volunteering a habit, and to most efficiently serve others, is to figure out what you’d be best at. If you faint at the sight of blood, then becoming a candy striper may not be for you. But if you luuuuurve cats and dogs, then helping out once a week at the local SPCA would be right up your alley. Like being outdoors? Shameless self-promotion alert: The Thousand Islands Land Trust has a variety of treks planned for this spring/summer/fall that are satisfying, one-off ways for you to do your part for conservation! There are also ongoing volunteer opportunities to work directly with little ol’ me as part of my marketing Street Team or Events Team.

These  opportunities (and many more, with countless other organizations) are for both young and old. My message to parents: Lead by example, make it fun, and most importantly – make it second-nature.

Photo from TILT’s 2012 Macsherry Trail Maintenance Day, from our Flickr page.


4 responses to “They Got Served: MLK Day and the Importance of Volunteering

  1. So true!

    Your Girl Scout troop sounds great. Mine wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t the most enlightening. We mostly did little crafty things and had snacks. We never went camping, never volunteered, etc. My mum helped run it, but was largely overpowered by the other mothers just as involved who were not interested in those activities. She got burnt out quickly. I think those aspects of scouting should be more emphasized. It’s far more important than selling those unhealthy cookies. 😛

    And don’t worry! Our little one will be picking up litter and joining your treks before we all know it!

  2. Pingback: Communal Spirit: Any Giving is Good Enough | A Green(ish) Life·

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