In an exclusive essay for USA Today, Michelle Obama extols the importance of giving -- especially in these trying times. She writes, "When so many people are struggling to make ends meet, we need everyone pulling together to solve our nation's problems and to lift up our fellow Americans." She also highlights the importance of fostering service and social consciousness in our youth, noting that "the current generation of young people is one of the most socially conscious and active, with 61% of 13- to 25-year-olds saying they feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world."
Her essay focuses on the new Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which "promotes the cause of service among young people by investing in service-learning" and which will "dramatically increase the number of full- and part-time service opportunities for college-age students."
And most importantly, Michelle takes time to put a spotlight on those smaller acts of community service -- the ones that don't involve a food bank, donations, or a special occasion.
Every day we hear stories of people rising to the occasion and making a real difference: the retiree who volunteers at the local elementary school to help children learn to read; the woman down the block who watches out for her neighbor's kids after school -- providing a snack, some wisdom and a home with a light on until parents return from a long day of work; the mothers and fathers in a neighborhood who coach Little League and soccer and teach kids about good sportsmanship and perseverance and teamwork.
We want to put a spotlight on these stories as well, which is why we've asked you to help us! Like we said, difficult times bring communities together as people lean on one another for support. In this recession, there's no shortage of communities around the country that have rallied around a struggling neighbor, reached out a helping hand to those around them, or donated free dry cleaning to the job-seeking and unemployed. We know there are more stories like these and HuffPost wants to highlight them. If you read or hear about an act of kindness in your community, email us the story at email@example.com.
And just in case you're looking for inspiration, we've always found this slideshow particularly uplifting: