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National Day of Service: simple actions, profound effects

Posted Jan 22 2009 4:33pm

Today, Monday, January 19th, is not only an opportunity to honor the memory of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, it is also a day for us to participate in the service of others.

The idea of service, one person doing something for the benefit another, was something that Dr King cherished deeply. Not only does service help those in need, but it also makes for a better individual. When you participate in the act of unconditionally serving others, you yourself become better for it.

Service, especially in today's world, can be a very scary thing. Most people simply don't know how to be of service. Many young can find themselves asking: What do I do? Where do I go? How can I really make a difference?

Somehow we've convinced ourselves that service is about "going big or going home." We see others donating millions, starting huge nonprofits and helping thousands of children overseas. Can a simple act of service or kindness really compare to all that?

This idea that only the gifted or the rich can really make a difference was exactly what Dr King didn't want. The true spirit of service, in Dr King's eyes, came from something much deeper:

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 your verb agree to serve.... You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you're up to something special today for The National Day of Service I congratulate you and wish you the best. If you're not... first off, welcome to the club! Secondly, let us acknowledge that it's never to late to be of service. Lastly, let us also remember that the true sprint of service shows up in the daily acts of kindness we manifest. Even a simple gesture of kindness can have a deep and profound effect on the world.

Simple Actions, Profound Effects

Here is a list of 7 anonymous acts of kindness themes that are simple in measure, but profound in meaning. These ideas, taken from, are just ideas - nuggets to get the mind thinking about service, kindness, grace and love. If a specific idea speaks to you then take it on, if not, feel free to take on anything that allows you to honor the true intention of this day.

1) Reach-out to the Homebound: Reach out to the homebound -- seniors, ill or incapacitate children or caregivers committed to caring for their family members at home. Connect them to communication resources like radio, TV or Internet so they can stay connected to the world at large. Find a good-news story in the media and email them regularly. Tag them with an inspiring book. Offer to bring them books from the library. Share 'smile stories' you've read in this newsletter. Help them take care of their pets. Convince a beautician or barber to make a house-call. Buy them nice stationary so they write appreciative notes to those they are grateful for.

2) Help The Homless: Donate your professional clothes to an organization that helps people get back into the workforce. Give gently worn home furnishings or household appliances to a person or family who might need them or donate them to an organization. Take warm clothes, blankets or food to a homeless person that you often cross paths with. Donate toys and books to a homeless organization. Toys and books are just as important to kids as food and shelter. When shopping, buy a couple extra non-perishable food items and take them to a food drive or pantry. Make an extra serving of dinner and bring it to a homeless person in your neighborhood.

3) Honor Your Heroes: Honor your heroes with kindness. Dedicate a small act of kindness to your hero by writing them a letter about your experience. Find your favorite elementary school teacher and send him/her some 'thank-you' flowers anonymously. Get a 'just because' gift for your dad even when it isn't Father's Day. Tell the story of your hero to a young child. At your next family gathering, have everyone share each other's heroes. In honor of your pet, volunteer at a local animal shelter.

4) Kindness Towards Environment: Practice kindness towards the environment. Participate in beach or park cleanups. Reduce air pollution by carpooling, taking public transportation, biking, or walking. Recycle all aluminum, plastic, and paper materials. Cut down on the energy you use by lowering the heat and turning off lights and unused appliances. Learn more about solar energy. As gifts, give houseplants to teachers, friends, or coworkers. Plant a tree in your neighborhood.

5) Five Bucks And Under: What can you do with five bucks to make someone's day? Tape the exact change to a pay phone or toy machine for a kid. Pay the toll for the person behind you. Leave flowers in front of someone's house. Prepare a healthy treat for your neighbors. Put quarters in the laundry machine for the next person. Send cards with beautiful messages to anonymous people. Leave a healthy snack on the desk of your co-workers. Treat someone to a cup of tea for no reason at all.

6) Gift of Books: Never underestimate the power of books to expand minds. Give an inspiring book to a friend in need. Encourage children to do a reading drive for a charity of their choice -- people donate money for every book they read this summer. Subscribe an officemate to your favorite magazine. Leave a good book in a public place with a smile card. Forward an inspiring article to your email address book. Instead of going out to a movie, go to a coffee shop with your favorite book. Donate your unused books to your local library.

7) Community Kindness: Appreciate a community worker. Give a thank-you card to a bus driver who is driving off-peak hours, personally thank the janitor who keeps your campus clean, tell a police officer that you appreciate his work for the community, send flowers to a local teacher who has dedicated her life to children.

    Having a day of reflection on the idea of service gives us all an opportunity to think about what impact our actions and intentions are having. Not just on the world, but on ourselves too. The reality is when we are regularly in the service of others, we feel more balanced, more whole, more complete and more alive.

    Happy National Day of Service to you all. May you find your calling in the service of others.

    p.s. If you have service ideas, feel free to hit us up in the comments section.

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