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Silda Wall Spitzer Headshot

Haiti Earthquake and MLK Day: Strive to Make a Difference

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How can we begin to explain to our children what we ourselves cannot comprehend? As the earthquake ravaged Haiti last week, it seemed unimaginable that such devastation could strike a country that was already the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. We ask ourselves: how could this happen? And then we ask ourselves the more important questions, "how can I help?"

The timing of this tragedy and this past weeks celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day leaves me reflecting on a lesson that I believe was a part of Dr. King's legacy and message to us all.

Dr. King taught us not to fear the incomprehensible in life, but to act and realize our power to make a difference. He showed us how each of us can and should reach out to those in need. He told us "everybody can be great, because everybody can serve." This is a message that should comfort, inspire, and mobilize us into action during this time. And for
me, this is one of the most important messages that we can share with our families. Children want and need to know that they can help.

I have always seen MLK Day as the perfect day to make service a part of the American family tradition and for parents to teach their children that each of us has a role to play in strengthening our world and communities. There is no more appropriate time to live this lesson by doing, than in the wake of the Haiti earthquake.

Each year, Children for Children, an organization near and dear to my heart celebrates the life of Dr. King by providing opportunities for young people to volunteer and discover their power and potential to make a real difference in the world. With over 4,000 young people
volunteering at large service events in New York City, to small groups of children and families gathering around the country, young people are realizing their ability to contribute to the greater good in all sorts of ways. From packing toiletry care kits for shelters, to holding read-a-thons to fundraise for Red Cross relief efforts, parents are
teaching their children that you are never too small to make a big difference.

Family volunteering encourages family members to volunteer as a unit. It can be done by the whole family together, by one parent and one child or teen, or with extended family such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It can be as simple as creating cards for children
in the hospital or as complex as bonding hundreds of families together in a day of service at a community park. However families choose to do it, families engaged in service can help mobilize thousands of new volunteers and instill in the next generation in a lifelong commitment to volunteering. And most of all, you can help those who are experiencing true need, like the many families without homes in Haiti.

Of course, it should not take a tragedy to ask "how can we help?" You can make volunteering a part of your families tradition on MLK Day, throughout the year, and of course in times like these.

Each day of our lives, we make decisions about what we are going to give to the world and what are we going to put out there in the form of our time, our talents, our treasure, and our very selves. The need for us all to give, to contribute, to volunteer, and to lend a
hand is never clearer than in these moments of tragedy, like the Haiti earthquake. We can serve. We can honor the legacy of Dr. King. And through our service we can show that we remember and live by the lessons he taught us with his life.

I believe that in 2010, in the face of this recent tragedy, we will see more Americans than ever before showing our strength as a society through service. I hope you will choose to make your family a part of this. Start today. If you are looking for a way to empower your kids to overcome tragedy or daily challenges by acting to make a difference wherever you live, you can visit;; and