Think Memorial Day, think military veterans.
Think military veterans, think of their service and our gratitude.
Think of service and gratitude, think of all the ways we can be helpful; making Memorial Day something more.
The more I learn about the hardships the Colonial army went through to form the United States of America, the more I appreciate the country I call home:
- Soldiers struggling for moments of sleep, exposed to the chilling, winter darkness
- Bayonettes and butts of guns the most serviceable of killing devices
- Amputations without anesthesia
We recognize Memorial Day by thanking those who battled in the wars to create, protect, and preserve our country. I propose we also take it a step further. Make it a memorable day and truly honor the past fighters by doing as they did: being of service–and giving others something else to be grateful for.
There is no shortage of opportunity.
In cities, we’ll find formal service efforts–soup kitchens, Big Brothers Big Sisters, hospitals. There are also the homeless, food shelves, and church projects that work to make the world a better place. But even if you’re no where near a town, there are always ways to be of service, because literally any action you take with another’s well-being in mind fulfills this mission. Write a letter to or visit a friend or relative who could use the company. Clean up a section of your highway or street.
Exercising the muscles of selfless action is a spiritual practice taught the world over. This is because of the great freedom felt, the light-heartedness and positivity reaped by sowing a serviceable deed. It isn’t magic; it’s simply about reprieving our minds of its most constant consideration: ourselves.
It has actually taken me some time to appreciate this phenomenon. As a college student, I volunteered as a patient companion at the University of Minnesota hospital. I was awkward speaking to the sick adults and felt bad for the sick children. (Looking back, I appreciate my volunteering more now than I did then.)
But over time, I’ve gone about volunteering with less of me (my nerves or pity) on my mind. I can better be with others and consider them during my act, which is as enlivening to my spiritual being as oxygen is to my physical being.
Service done right is a spiritual breather.
In that spirit, I want to highlight service work being done by friends and readers–to give them the credit they deserve, to raise awareness for their cause (perhaps you’d like to join?), and to inspire us to take up service opportunities in our own lives.
- Tou Ger Bennett Xiong is a Hmong advocate taking part in the Peace March in Wasau, Wisconsin Tuesday, May 31. Centered around the case of Wisconsin teen Dylan Yang, the march at noon brings together those concerned about the outcome of this trial but also general issues of bullying, violence, and equality under the law.
- VJ Smith has tirelessly worked for decades with inner-city residents in Minneapolis and across the country to help improve the conditions in these neighborhoods. With the surge of violence and murder in Minneapolis this year, Smith has exerted himself that much more–somehow matching his serenity with the area calamity. On Saturday, June 4, Smith is part of the 7th annual Stop the Violence Fair starting at 11:00am at the Cub Foods in North Minneapolis.
- Timaria Hammond-Downing is a Big Sister. Her “little” is a 13-year-old girl who looks up to Timaria as a model of who she can become one day. Much like the work VJ Smith does as president of MADDADS, I don’t know of a better way to improve the lives of those at risk than by placing yourself in theirs. If the program is available in your city, check out Big Brothers Big Sisters.
- Dina Simon is president of Simon Says Give, a youth-operated nonprofit devoted to providing kids’ birthday celebrations. They are currently in the middle of a fundraising drive through the Give Twin Cities Challenge.
By offering our gratitude to those who fought for our peace, we celebrate Memorial Day.
By honoring these men and women by being of service ourselves, we make it a Memorable Day.
I hope you find a way this week to receive the gifts of giving.