Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, "Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve" -- but today, I wonder if "everyone" can even find an opportunity to serve.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In 1994, MLK Day was no longer just a Federal Holiday, but it also received the designation from Congress as the "National Day of Service." Since then, I reckon that most of us had forgotten the significance of this day as "a day on, not a day off" until last year when President Barack Obama and the First Lady breathed new life into this very special day. In a proclamation of this year's MLK Day, President Obama acknowledged that Dr. King's work "remains unfinished" and appealed to all Americans to serve on this day:
Today, let us ask ourselves what Dr. King believed to be life's most urgent and persistent question: "What are you doing for others?"
When my friend Dan asked me this question yesterday, I went straight to the Web to search for opportunities that would allow me to act on my desire to serve on the National Day of Service. My first search result offered up ONE, single opportunity.
I was shocked. I live in New York City, and there was only ONE volunteer opportunity available for nearly 9 million New Yorkers. How could this be? I searched a bit harder and only found a few more opportunities, most of which are ongoing projects that happened to overlap with MLK Day.
The Corporation for National and Community Service claims that there are more than 10,000 service projects planned across the United States for MLK Day this year. It's not that I don't believe them; I just wonder how I missed the memo on where to find these projects?
Maybe I would have had more than a handful of choices on MLK Day had I planned my volunteering in advance, but considering how much need there is out there, I think that it should be easy to find opportunities to serve, especially on this day that we've honored as our National Day of Service.
In any case, I did find a project I'm excited about today. I'm spending my morning in Bedford-Stuyvesant at Sue Rock Originals Design Studio sewing wrap skirts for women and children in Haiti. I found this opportunity on the Serve.gov Web site. Check it out.
Until it's easier to find opportunities to serve (and trust me, people are working on solving this issue), let's be creative. Here's an article with some good ideas. I'd also love to hear about where you found your opportunity to serve on MLK Day and what you decided to do.