Martin Luther King, Jr. day is now a national Day of Service. People and their families are encouraged to find a way to spend the day volunteering in service of others. I'm all for it; no matter the cause, everyone can use a little help now and then, and the ability to help others is a fairly unique trait we as humans have. I also want to instill in my children the idea that they should take some time out of their self-indulgent lives and do something for someone else.
Last year I didn't plan ahead and I didn't start looking for a service project until the night before. I couldn't find anything that would be appropriate for the kids and me; the few service projects I located in my community were heavy labor (painting, etc.) and/or had age requirements far higher than the ages of my boys. I just assumed all of the "appropriate" projects had been filled by those uber-organized families. So this year I planned ahead and I've been researching service projects for the past few days. Guess what? I can't find a project that is appropriate for the boys and me to do as a family.
I began to wonder. What happened to those "clean the park" days? Why aren't agencies that serve food advertising for help on the Day of Service? My kids are still pretty little, but they could certainly accompany me while I clean up the banks of one of our five rivers. In fact, they would love it ... they would find every odd rock, plant and bug. What a missed opportunity! My little guys could certainly help carry plates of food, or pick up leftover meal trash at a meal-serving agency. They could probably help pack boxes at a food bank. Alas, none of these projects is available to us.
As I've mentioned previously, I started a non-profit that will provide weekend food bags for food insecure children. We aren't up and running yet (we're getting our legal paperwork done, corporate structure done, etc. and raising money), but after this experience I am committed to having a Day of Service project ready to go next year. If nothing else, we can make that the day we clean out/organize everything. Ideally, it would be a day where we unpack and organize tons of food to get ready for distribution. Either way, next year we will have our very own project for the Day of Service.