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Community Services

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The Power of Working Together

All around the country, community service is powered by such a wide variety of
organizations that it almost seems like they would trip over each other to find
ways to help out those in need. The spirit of giving and the desire to help
others is evidenced strongly in the work done by churches, charitable
organizations, youth groups and social clubs that gather to pitch in and help.
But when you think of community service, one organization stands out because
their work literally grabs headlines by bringing together those dozens of
organizations into one coordinated effort. That group is appropriately named
The United Way.

More than any other effort, the United Way has made the greatest strides at
mobilizing this army of volunteers into one coordinated effort to participate
in ongoing community service in the communities they serve. Each fall, if is
almost impossible not to be aware of the United Way as they mount their annual
fund raising campaign to get their year off in a strong way.

The United Way has found the resources to penetrate an area of society that has
the greatest resources to make a difference in community service and that is the
American business community. Through the "Fair Share" program, businesses small
and large commonly make the United Way campaign a significant part of their
corporate life each fall. The ethic of reaching 100% participation and the
recognition that the United Way gives to businesses who can muster that level
of enthusiasm from their employees goes a long way to help the United Way reach
the kind of success they have achieved.

But achieving "100% participation" for a business means more than just getting
each employee to set aside their fair share of money to help out the many
organizations that benefit from the United Way. It also means sending armies of
volunteers from their corporate ranks out into the community to pitch in and
paint schools, plant gardens, build playgrounds and participate in dozens of
other coordinated projects that the United Way sponsors during their annual
campaign. This united effort gives companies a change to raise their profile as
solid members of the community and encourage their employees to give back to the
community in gratitude for allowing the business to prosper in that town.

It is truly amazing the number of companies that actually give every employee
in their company a paid day to go and participate in United Way projects. This
is called the "United Way Day of Service" and it demonstrates that even though
business is about making money, the heart of business is about doing good for
others as well and they too can find a way to pitching if someone gives them
the opportunity. The United Way makes that opportunity and everybody benefits
from their strong leadership.

Without a doubt one of the big reasons the United Way is so successful is that
they represent so many charitable organizations. The United Way is not in
existence to benefit just one cause. The "united" part of the United Way means
that yes, they are bringing together businesses, churches and every institution
they can rally to work together for community service. But it also means that
their work will go to benefit literally dozens of worthwhile causes from the
outcome of the fund raising and coordinated volunteer work of United Way

We can be grateful that this approach to community service has been put
together so each small charity does not have to struggle alone. By becoming
part of the United Way, even small business can make an effort to combine with
larger businesses to make a real difference in their community. The United Way
has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that there really is power in working

It Takes a Village

A few years ago a book came out called "It Takes a Village" that created a
stir. But the stir was probably because the author was Hillary Clinton more
than the topic itself. But in this book Mrs. Clinton advanced the theory that
in society, much of what we do that has value, including raising children is
not just the work of individuals. It takes community action to make things of
lasting value happen.'

This concept may have had some political reason for being written but Mrs.
Clinton did introduce into the public mind that phrase which is really an
outstanding summary of why community service works so well. The key word in
community service is community. When a group of people come together for a
shared purpose to do something good for the community in which they live, that
is a special moment. Not only does it foster tremendous good will in the team
and for those who are beneficiaries of the community spirit but it inspires
others who see these good things happening to get involved.

If you live in a city of any large size, we have more trouble thinking of our
community as a "village". And to some extent the size of the city might also
have an influence over your willingness to get involved in community service
projects. But there is a way to view even life in the big city in such a way
that you can find good reasons to make a contribution.

Even if you live in one of the large metropolitan areas of the country, the
truth is, we all to some extent live in a village. You have a limited area that
you travel for the most part. Most of us go to the same grocery stores, play at
the same parks, attend the same church each week and use a limited number of
streets even if you live in surrounded by one of the biggest cities in the
country. Philadelphia, one of the largest cities in the country, is known as
the "city of neighborhoods." And within those neighborhoods everybody knows
each other and life is localized. In a way, those neighborhoods are right in
the middle of a big city.

So, you too live in a village within the large city around you. And within that
village, you can see ways that you can make a contribution to the lives you
touch and that touch yours. Some great community service ideas that you can
look for that will affect your "village" might be:

*  You learn from your child that the family of one of his friends cannot
afford to repair their porch. You can mobilize the parents of many of the
children in that class and show up there on a Saturday with a surprise porch
repair crew. That kind of spontaneous event will bring bonding to just that
"village" of parents of kids in that school room that could build friendships
that will last a lifetime.

*  You find out that a family owned business is going to have to go out of
business because they cannot bring their building up to code. You can circulate
a petition of the many customers who love that business like you do and organize
a fund raising campaign to get that building fixed. This doesn't just have to be
about money. You can get everybody into the act having yard sales, bake sales
and doing other fund raising events to keep that wonderful family owned
operation a part of your community for a long time to come.

*  A local church has all of their beautiful stained glass windows blown out by
a tornado. You can use your research skills and the skills of other business
people to find some replacement windows in a defunct church and get them sent
to your community to make that church beautiful again.

All of these things make life better in the streets and community centers of
the area of town where you live. And when you pitch in and make your little
area of the world a better place to live, the good feelings and friendships you
build have positive effects that are beyond measure. And above all you took the
time to be of help so can say even with Hilary Clinton that it really does take
a village.

Community Service is a Family Affair

Sometimes we think our kids never listen to us. This can be a particularly
difficult problem when kids become teenagers. It seems that no matter what we
tell them, they just shrug and give us that obnoxious response of "whatever"
and we make no impact at all.

But any child or youth counselor will tell us that this is absolutely not the
case. That outside show of indifference is just that, a show. Teenagers do not
jump from children to sophisticated, hardened and cynical adults in few weeks
or months time. The emotional growth of a human at this age moves along just as
slowly as when they were children. So even though they are adult looking on the
outside, on the inside you still have a very emotional little boy or girl who
want nothing more than to please mom and dad and still try to figure out this
new world they are living in.

Children and teenagers value the time they get with their parents tremendously.
It might be twenty years later when you come to realize how important it is to
them but they need both quality and quantity time with their mom and their dad.
It is part of how their personalities form and it has a huge impact on their
self esteem and ability to go out there and conquer the world.

They learn how to handle stress from their parents. They learn how to succeed
and how to gracefully lose and how to take a loss and turn it into a win from
the people they know the best and that is their parents. Yes, they do listen to
what you say. But they listen more than you may even realize. They listen to
what adults say to each other and to other adults. And they listen even more
closely to what you say with your actions.

We all want to instill good values in our kids. But how to do that and still
have some fun times with them and do so in the limited time everybody is home.
Well one outstanding way is to plan for family outings that include service
projects to the community. That is one outstanding way to "talk with your
actions" about your commitment to community service.

Now that concept may at first seem like you are just going to add more work to
your already full plate of things to do. But doing a service project as a
family doesn't have to be tedious and tiring. There are tons of things you can
do that provide service to your community but are lots of fun for everyone

*  Go have fun at the park but while you are there, pick up every tiny bit of
litter you can find.

*  Be a volunteer at the family night at church and help the little kids enjoy
the rides and games that are planned for them. You own little ones will love
seeing you be in charge of the Jupiter Jump and it will build community.

*  Find an area along the river where erosion is happening and plant a tree. It
will hold back the erosion and you can have fun doing a gardening project and
maybe even wet a hook and catch a fish.

*  Go down to the shelter and read your favorite books to needy children. The
kids can bring the books that were precious to them as little ones and they get
to feel that joy of seeing a child laugh at the same things they laughed at when
they were young. Be careful though that you don't find your kids wanting to
adopt every kid at the shelter by the time you are done.

Family service projects are a hidden goldmine of fun and bonding for the whole
family. Once you get started doing them, you wont want to stop. You will find
the whole family rushing to get ready each evening or looking forward to
Saturday when they can get out there and do another one. And while you are
building family unity and bonding with your kids, they are finding out that
community service is a way of life and a great way to have fun at the same time.

Coming Together

There is something about community service that causes a sense of coming
together that really is not possible in any other setting. When a community
comes out either in time of crisis or when a big community project is in the
works, you see a side of people that will not surface in their day to day
world. This may be why community service projects that mobilize the population
to get out and help others are so popular.

Community service gives people a chance to do something for some one else. It
also gives parents the chance to get their kids involved in something
wholesome, fun and to learn the value of doing a project for a selfless motive.
And it gives everyone a chance to get to know others in the community that we
might never meet any other way.

United Way functions are great for this because they pull volunteers from
businesses all over your community. So you might be working shoulder to
shoulder painting a school room with the president of the biggest bank in town
or a minister of a church you never otherwise would have gotten to know. The
hours working together builds bonds and friendships that are in every possible
way healthy for everyone.

There are plenty of historical precedents for how the bonding that occurs in
times of community service pulls a community and even the nation together.
During World War II, the nation was shocked into action by the bombing of Pearl
Harbor. All around the country, communities mobilized in dozens of ways to
conserve on precious resources needed for the war effort, to equip, train and
take care of the expanding military and sending their sons off to fight this
threat to the nation.

To this day there is no time in our history remembered with such fondness as
those days after Pearle Harbor when the nation functioned as one person to do
all they could to win this battle that was before us. The songs of that era and
the movies are cherished even by generations that have come later because they
are reminders of a time when the people came together for what was perhaps the
greatest community service project of all time, to defeat the enemy overseas by
mobilizing here at home.

Similar unity has happened from time to time since then and always, it seems,
in response to a crisis. When President Kennedy was shot, when the towers fell
on 911 or when the hurricane hit in New Orleans, the unity of purpose among all
Americans was evident. If ever there was a time when we showed the world that we
were one people with one heart, those were the times.

If we can find ways to create a similar spirit, not as a result of crisis but
built around a community need, even at just the local level, we can see a
similar unity between peoples that can cause some real social bonding. In many
communities there are divisions between neighborhoods based on racial or
economic divisions. A strong commitment to community service can cause people
to look outward and away from their resentments and prejudices and work
shoulder to shoulder with a fellow citizen that they may have treated with
hostility in any other setting.

There are many good reasons to sponsor community service at the local level
including the good it does for the recipients and the good feelings the
volunteers get when they get out and help another person. But this side benefit
that happens when a community service project brings people together and makes
new friends out of old enemies may be one of the greatest benefits of community
service of them all.

What You Can Do for Your Country

At one time the method for keeping the armed forces supplied with young men was
done with a draft in which some form of selection process required by law that
young men just out of high school to join the military to serve a term of
service. But in the 1970s, the United States moved to an all volunteer army and
our nation has been defended by this type of military system ever since.

The truth is that for decades, the idea of volunteering to serve a stint in the
armed forces was never in question in households in America. Until the problems
of the draft relative to the Vietnam conflict, in most homes in America,
parents taught their youth that going into the military was the natural next
step after high school but before going into college. Many older Americans
today can remember learning from their parents that it is a boy's civic duty to
serve their country in the military and that becoming a proud member of
America's fighting forces is what truly gave a youth his credentials to be "a

While social change has reduced the awareness in the population that service in
the military is actually the highest form of community service, the military
continues to be a viable way that a young person can pay back this great
country for the honor of their citizenship and start their lives as adults at
the same time.

The problem with the perception that volunteering for military service is no
longer a natural path of community service may come from the false perception
that the military exists solely to fight wars. And while that is job one for
any military unit, the ways that our military has been used especially in times
of crisis to perform community service within the borders of this country has
left a long history of achievement as its legacy.

Any young person that wants to join an organization dedicated to the single
minded pursuit of being of service to others cannot find a better place to do
that than the various branches of the military. Because the military is
generally well funded, well trained, housed full time in preparation for crisis
and kept at a high state of train gin and readiness, they can be called into
help out when the community finds itself in need.

Each year as hurricane season hits us, you see the military respond heroically.
Nowhere was that more evident than the evacuations from New Orleans during
Hurricane Katrina that just could not have been possible without the tireless
work of the military. But their efforts to keep America safe from the inside as
well as the outside doesn't stop when the hurricanes slow down. Whether it's a
tornado in the Midwest, fires in the west, volcanoes in the northeast or any
other disaster that might hit our population, the military always see to be the
"first responders" to such crisis.

This high calling of our military is even more evident in the reason for being
of our various National Guard units. While it's true that in the last few
years, they have been needed with that difficult conflict we are facing in the
Middle East, historically this has been a military force with the two pronged
mission of protecting the population at the local level and helping out when
the community has a need.

It's good to step back from our current view of the military because it can
become distorted because of the emotions we all associate with the conflicts
our country has been faced with in the last few decades. But getting a historic
view and taking into account the heroic work all branches of our military have
done to perform important community service at the local level, we can conclude
that there is no better place for a young person to seek a way to follow that
commission given by President Kennedy long ago to ask not what your country can
do for you, but what you can do for your country.

The Miracle of Habitat for Humanity

There may be no more recognizable organization name that comes to mind when we
think of community service than Habitat for Humanity. This is an organization
that does not view world poverty or reaching out to the disadvantaged as just
subjects of speeches. Habitat for Humanity literally puts their backs into the
mission of helping the disadvantaged, one home at a time.

There is no doubt that the high profile "celebrities" that have worked in
Habitat for Humanity have done a lot to raise the awareness of the community
services this fine organization does in communities around the nation and
around the world. President Jimmy Carter's tireless work with Habitat for
Humanity has left us with even more powerful images of his leadership than
perhaps he left us when he completed his term as President.

But those images are never of an ex-president enjoying the accolades of
admirers at an expensive Washington or Hollywood dinner to raise money for a
cause. No, the images of President Carter working with Habitat for Humanity are
the images that anyone who gets involved with this cause will remember. They
will recall images of dozens and dozens of helpful citizens, of all ages,
races, creeds and backgrounds, working together with their sleeves rolled up to
build a house for a neighbor, even if that neighbor is from halfway around the

Considering that the mission of Habitat for Humanity is driven by the calling
to build homes for people in need, one house at a time, the figures of their
success are truly staggering. As of their 2005 figures, Habitat for Humanity
had built over 200,000 homes worldwide and those homes have given safe, clean,
affordable shelter to over one million needy people. No wonder, as each new
owner of a Habitat for Humanity home looks at their beautiful new home, they
universally call the work of Habitat for Humanity "a miracle."

The organizational system that Habitat for Humanity uses is a model for helping
the less fortunate but avoiding the pitfalls that often occur when a government
agency gives a handout. The future owners of a Habitat home enter into an
agreement to work shoulder to shoulder with the volunteers who are building
their home investing "sweat equity" into that home. This investment builds
pride and a sense of ownership. But along with those benefits, it takes those
same new homeowners and adds them to the army of workers who will turn around
and go out and help build another home for someone just like themselves who
could use a helping hand to afford a home where their family can live.

It is small wonder that Habitat for Humanity was awarded the Presidential Metal
of Freedom in 1996, the highest civilian honor the government can give. When
awarding this metal, President Clinton said that Habitat for Humanity was ":
the most successful continuous community service project in the history of the
United States.". A truly phenomenal and "miraculous" movement such as Habitat
for Humanity does not go unnoticed as we witnessed when President Carter, a
tireless worker for Habitat for Humanity, was given the Nobel Peace Prize for
his continuous work on behalf of the disadvantaged in our society and around
the world.

Thousands of citizens have flocked to work with others in Habitat for Humanity
to build homes for their neighbors. The movement is ecumenical Christian,
independent of government funding, non-profit and totally driven by an army of

And yet is has truly been an example of how communities can come together to
help others for the sheer joy of community service.

The Greatest Generation

Not long ago, Tom Brokaw, a well known newsman and author wrote a book about
the heroic sacrifices that the men and women during World War II made to stop
Hitler and his allies and save our nation and the world from tyranny. The name
of that book was The Greatest Generation. Now there is absolutely no question
that the tremendous effort and self sacrifice that our grandfathers and
grandmothers made during those dark days represents very best of what America
is all about. We will never be able to thank them enough for what they did to
preserve this great country for us and for our children.

But there may be another greatest generation that deserves recognition as well.
And that generation is the next one. The reason that generation has the chance
to be the greatest generation as well is that we have the chance, right now as
the parents, the guardians, the teachers, the Boy Scout leaders, the Sunday
School teachers and the mentors of these young people to show them what
greatness is and how they too can be for their times the greatest generation.

To help the next generation to demonstrate that kind of greatness, we must
instill in them a sense of community awareness, devotion and pride that will
generate from everything they do. If the next generation is only what used to
be called "the me generation", they will only do what makes them happy right
now. Greatness comes from doing something that means something for the
community. So by teaching our youth how to be involved in community service
from a very early age, we equip them to be as great as any generation that came

Being of service to the community is a skill and an attitude that is caught and
not taught. So by making sure we, as the adults in their lives, are always
looking for ways to get involved in community service, the youth will mimic our
behavior as youth will always do and they will catch the fever and get a taste
for community service that will last a lifetime.

A wise man once said about helping the poor that if you give a man a fish he is
fed for a day but if you teach him to fish, he is fed for a lifetime. This ethic
is true about teaching our youth that community service is fun and that
neighbors helping neighbors is what makes life worth living. That is teaching
our kids to fish. And the result will be a love of community service that will
last a lifetime.

We have good mentors in our quest to raise the greatest generation. And there
are outstanding youth organizations that thrive on community service and
passing the torch to the next generation. From Boy Scouts to school clubs to
youth groups to the YMCA, wherever there are mentors of youth, there is
community service going on.

How will we know if our quest to make the next generation great is a success?
The clues will come quietly. When you hear your son or daughter leave the house
with enthusiasm to go join in on a project to clean up the park or to sign up at
the library to help children to read, you can reflect that you are witnessing
the birth in that child a love of giving and a love of community service that
will last a lifetime. That is the spirit that made the World War II generation
great. By empowering our children to be servants of the community, they too
will become for their times, the greatest generation.

The Good Lawyers

When you think of a lawyer, sometimes we get an image of high powered men in
flashy suits charging $300 an hour to talk legal talk that nobody understands
but other lawyers. And when we get those media images of lawyers in our heads,
the idea of a lawyer who wants to use his or her specialized talent with the
law and that extensive education they all have to have to practice law for
community service work seems almost ridiculous.

It's a good idea in all aspects of life not to let television or movie images
of anyone affect reality very much. The truth is there are thousands of lawyers
who went into law for other reasons than to make money and run for governor. In
every city and town in the country, there are lawyers who work for very little
to defend people who need help with the legal system try to get a fair shake in
a system that seems to reward the wealthy and the influential.

Most of us know at least a few lawyers. To be sure, there seems to be a lot of
them. But if you think about your friends who are lawyers, many have them have
a strong sense of community service and a desire to use the privilege and
education that has been given to them to benefit society. It is a tradition
that goes back for centuries in the legal profession. A lawyer by definition is
one who stands between the people and the government to try to help those who
have been falsely accused or need an advocate to be treated fairly.

That attitude of responsibility to the community is reflected in the values of
the Bar Association of America. The Bar Association holds its members to a high
standard of public responsibility and accountability. And part of that sense of
responsibility is using their talents and abilities as part of their community
service. So part of a lawyer's commitment includes dedicated a certain amount
of hours to the community to be offered as free legal assistance to those who
cannot afford a lawyer otherwise.

Now to be fair, this is required by the American Bar Association of all lawyers
on a state by state basis. An average of 50 hours a year is required for a
lawyer to continue to be a member of the Bar in good standing. This is called
"Pro Bono Publico" work (usually shorted to Pro Bono) which is Latin for "in
the public good". But rather than see that as something negative, this reflects
the values of the Bar Association and it sends a message to anyone who wants to
hang out their shingle as a lawyer that being in service to the community is
important and encouraged from the highest levels of the legal profession.

The attitudes of public responsibility don't just end at the door of the Bar
Association building. Many lawyers give far more than their minimum
requirements in free legal service to the community. In every city and town in
this country, you can find lawyers working side by side with doctors, dentists,
construction people and professionals of every description to try and help out
people who don't have a lot to give back but just need that helping hand.

So let's lay aside our prejudices about lawyers that we pick up from too many
movies and television shows that only show the bad ones. When we do that we
will realize that lawyers are good neighbors, good family men and woman and
really do care about giving back to the community just like you and I do. Those
are truly the good lawyers.

The Evidence of Eagles

Most of us at some point or another have met a young man who proudly includes
in his credentials of his youth that he is an "Eagle Scout". If you are not
familiar with the program of the Boy Scouts of America, that might sound like a
strange thing to list as great accomplishments of youth. But there is no
question that Eagle Scouts are a unique classification of youth who carry that
distinction with a unique pride. It seems that once a boy adds that credential
to their resume, they carry that honor with them forever.

In brief, the Boy Scouts program is an international youth organization
organized to develop good values, community spirit and leadership in boys that
will help them become better citizens in manhood. It is a program that is over
100 years old and that has chapters all over the world. When a boy starts in
the scouting program, he works his way up a series of ranks, each of which is
progressively more difficult to achieve.

The highest rank of any boy scout is the Eagle rank. Statistics tell us that of
the thousands of boys that enter the Boy Scouts program, only 3% are able to
achieve that final rank and be able to stand proudly and say "I am an Eagle
Scout." And it is more than just an honor that stays within the BSA. Being an
Eagle Scout can be listed on college applications, it can help with advancement
in the military and become part of a man's employment resume right along with
time in the military and college experience. It is that valuable to a young man.

When a young man reaches the threshold of this prestigious rank, the
requirements of him are high. Boys who wish to get over this final hurdle must
work at it usually for over a year to accomplish what is required of them to
put that Eagle pin on their uniform. And at the very heart of these strenuous
requirements is the concept of community service.

Community service is an integral part of every aspect of the program the Boy
Scouts organization puts together for the boys. At each step along the path of
advancement, some "service hours" are required of the boys. It is so much a
natural part of the way a boy scout thinks that many recreational activates are
organized around service projects so the boys come to understand that being in
community service is just part of being a citizen. And it can be fun too.

But to make the rank of Eagle, the candidate must complete his "Eagle Project".
This is a distinctive project that must be of significant community value. The
process of even getting that Eagle Project approved is strict and held to a
high standard. And once the boy has his project approved, it will take weeks if
not months to complete it.

Typical Eagle projects include the complete repainting of a community service
building, planting trees in a public park, landscaping all of the open areas in
a church or organizing a community wide blood drive. There is no question that
Eagle Projects make a positive impact on the community. And when a boy
successfully completes that project and has turned in all of his requirements
to become an Eagle Scout, he will look back with pride on that project and
often take family members, friends and show his children and grandchildren that
project with pride because he is able to say "that was my Eagle Project."

So look around the community. Odds are you won't look far before you will see
the impact of the Eagle program in your town. The Boy Scouts make sure the best
of their best leave a mark on the community. They want to be sure that wherever
their finest leaders can be found, there you will find the evidence of Eagles.

The Church as Good Neighbor

There has been a lot of discussion going on about whether religion should be
part of public life. This kind of theoretical discussion can be thrown around
on national television shows. But anyone who lives in a community in any town
in this country knows that the church is as vital a part of any community as
the town hall, the library or the local swimming pool.

Whether you have religious convictions or not, the role of the church in
community life is impossible to ignore. Most churches have as part of their
core reason for being that they will reach out to the community in a wide
variety of ways to help the needy and provide comfort to those in need of help
in the community in which they reside.

Since this country was founded, the church has been a gathering place where
important public factions take place. Just take a walk around Boston where the
nation was born and you will notice that many of the important public landmarks
that were part of the start of this country were churches. To a church,
participating in community service is just as natural as a policeman helping a
lost child get home. It just is part of who they are what they do.

If you have a community service project in mind, it is never a bad place to
start to go to the church and meet with their administrative board. The church
knows that if you improve the community, you make people feel more part of the
lives of others. And people who want to be involved in the lives of others get
out and go to church. So it just makes good sense for your local church, temple
or synagogue to be a vital part of any community service project that can make
your town a better place to live.

It is important to understand the role the church can play in any community
service project in town. The church is probably not the place to go to get
massive funding for a huge public works project. But don't count the church out
as a funding resource because within the church there may be many influential
and wealthy citizens who might be ready to kick in their fair share to make the
town a better place to live.

The church, if it is a vital and living religious body, has at its disposal a
strong community of enthusiastic members and the ability to mobilize those
members to get out and make a difference in the community. The pastor or priest
of the local church has the pulse of his or her congregation and he or she knows
how to get them moving on an exciting project and, by the way, how to turn them
against one just as fast.

So when you go to the local church to discuss that community service project,
think of what means the most to that religious institution. They are not
motivated by property values, marketing statistics or traffic the project might
generate. A church is interested in the people who might be touched and if the
project gives them the ability to make a positive impact on the community. That
kind of influence will help people feel open to coming to church again and that
is what makes churches grow.

So we should look at churches as places that have a tremendous value to any
community service project we might need to get started. As people motivators,
they cannot be beat. Church members are joiners and doers and they as a rule
can be trusted with money, equipment and responsibility. Churches have small
communities such as the youth group, the ladies circle or the men's fellowship
that by themselves can take on a community service project and make it a
success. So if you have plans to start a project that is going to make a
positive mark on your community, remember a church can always be counted on to
be a good neighbor.

Teens on a Mission from God

One of the many great lines from the classic movie The Blues Brothers was one
that was delivered by Dan Ackroyd when he was explaining the importance of
their need to get their blues band back together. He always explained that it
was because, "We're on a mission from God."

But humor aside, across this country from literally thousands of churches each
summer, youth groups head out on trips, some far away and some across town to
offer community service in the name of their mission of spreading the word
about their faith. Now whether you subscribe to the religious views of these
many bright eyed teenagers, you have to admit that seeing such an army of youth
spending their summer weeks working to help others rather than just hanging out
at the pool or making trouble for their parents is a positive thing for
everyone concerned.

From a religious perspective, one of the great values of a mission trip for
teenagers is that it gives them a chance to genuinely use their faith in
service of others. Most religious doctrines include a dedication to service to
mankind in one form or another. Most of the mission trips that are sponsored
from American churches are Christian in nature. And the Christian faith
definitely includes teaching that all followers should reach out to the poor
and to those less fortunate than themselves as part of their devotion to God.

So taking an organized group of young people out to offer service to the poor,
to another culture or even overseas to a disadvantaged area makes those
teachings from the church much more real. Even for those who may not subscribe
to Christianity, it is clear that a faith that gets out and puts its muscle
into community service is a faith that, to borrow a phrase, "puts it money
where its mouth is."

Beyond the religious aspects of the value of such mission trips, there are many
tremendous values that are the outcome of mobilizing a group of teenagers to go
and help others as part of a community service effort. Some of those values are:

*  It teaches the value of work. When youth are given shovels or paint brushes
and they have to work 8-10 hours in the hot sun to help other people, they
learn a lot about what hard work means and the great things that can come from
hard work. This is a lesson that can never been taught as well via lectures or
reading a book. It is a lesson best caught not taught.

*  It teaches them to work together. Community service projects almost always
involves working in teams. As teens begin to bond with their fellow
missionaries that are both other teens who are older and younger and with hard
working adults, those divisions between generations and between each other melt
away as they work hard and enjoy the fun of really doing something worthwhile.

*  It gives them a glimpse into the lives of others. Universally when teenagers
return from a mission trip, they come back changed after seeing how others less
fortunate than they live. This is a big growing experience and one that will
only happen in a dramatic, face to face encounter such as they have on the
mission field.

We cannot overlook that one of the big values of putting tens of thousands of
teenagers into the field to do community service each summer is that many poor,
disadvantaged or down and out people get much needed help from an army of kids
eager to serve because they are doing it from their reverence for their
religious beliefs. The bonding that happens on mission trips isn't just between
the team and each other and it's leadership. Those receiving the help will bond
with the mission teams in ways that none involved will ever forget. And that
has value that are probably even greater than the work that got done. Those are
eternal values.

Real Patriotism

Patriotism is a word that has gotten a lot of use in the last few years as more
and more people try to define what patriotism is based on how much you fly your
flag and how many magnets you have on your car. But the expression of
patriotism we show at the fourth of the July when we cut loose with those
fireworks or we shout in agreement at stirring patriotic speeches are not the
kind of patriotism that makes this country as great as it is.

This is not to say that there is no place for that kind of patriotic
expression. To be able to express devotion to country openly is one of our
rights. And when all citizens of this country can do that in agreement, it
builds community and the kind of pride that makes the nation strong.

There is a phrase that one of the army divisions uses to explain to anybody who
asks what makes that unit so brave and able to do such amazing things in battle
or whenever called into duty. It is a very simple phrase but one that is full
of meaning. It simply says "deeds not words."

The concept of deeds being the true substance of patriotism is nowhere better
shown than in the many acts of community service that go on in this country
every week of the year. All over this great land, clubs, Boy Scout troops,
churches, businesses and every imaginable kind of organization go into the
community to do service projects to make their communities a better place to

Maybe this doesn't seem like patriotism because we tend to associate patriotism
with love of the country as a whole. But none of us live in the country as a
whole. Each of us lives in a community that taken together make this wonderful
country as great as it is. The country isn't great because it photographs well
from space. It is great because in little towns and small cities and big
metropolises and out in the country, Americans get out and find ways to help
each other and to help their communities grow and continue to prosper.

That spirit of community service is always on display when you see moments of
crisis in part of the country. We see situations every week where there is a
tornado here or a fire there or a lost child in one small town or a family who
loses everything in another. When we see that, without fail, you see the local
community rally to the aid of those who lost the most. In fact, when the
national media does their job of letting us know when the need is great, the
nation as a whole will pitch in and do all they can to help out their neighbors
in another state, even though these are neighbors they have never met and that
they will never see again.

Obviously dramatic events like the 911 attacks show that kind of spirit most
dramatically. At the local level, even in a town like New York City, on the
sight where there was tremendous danger and loss of life everywhere, those New
Yorkers became what we all are. They became Americans and even with the threat
of more danger, they got in there and helped the wounded. And then day by day,
week by week, those Americans set upon a community service project to end all
community service projects as they began to put those neighborhoods back
together again and make a community out of what terrorists turned into a war

But the local community service is not the end of the story. Soon from all over
America, from small towns and big cities, armies of volunteers, coordinated by
wise agencies that we depend on in times like these, moved into New York to
lend their hands, neighbor to neighbor to help rebuild that city. Never mind if
that mother from Peoria knew about New York or agreed with them politically. She
saw a neighbor in pain and a town attacked by an enemy. And Americans come
together when we need each other. That is the heart of what makes community
service work. And that is the true meaning of patriotism.

Merchants Reach Out

Sometimes we see some tremendous acts of community service that one of the
really big businesses in town takes on. A huge international bank may donate
some huge statue to the local park. A big oil company who has been in the city
since it was started might fund a library or a new museum. When these things
happen, those big businesses usually get their names attached to those
projects. And while we are all grateful for the contribution these businesses
make to our towns, nobody is kidding themselves that they just do that as part
of smart business and to take the write off.

It is sad to be so cynical but when we think of true community service, it
isn't some massive company that has no real face or personality to us that
really makes a difference. It is when that local merchant who runs the local
five and dime or ice cream shop or that new business getting started pitches in
that we really see the "community" part of community service start to mean

They say that small business really is the heart of our economy. But small
business is what makes any city or town in America thrive. Even if the business
is a branch of a large national chain, if the business functions for very long
in your neighborhood, it doesn't take long for it to become a local business.

Local merchants have good reasons to get involved in community service projects
that are even more compelling than the reasons huge companies do it. Huge
companies do it because they went to a seminar in New York where some hot shot
wrote a book telling them it's a good idea to appease the locals. But with a
local business, there are no hot shots telling them how to appease anyone. They
ARE the locals and they love your community just as much as anyone.

"Love" is a term not lots of people apply to the place they live very much. But
our immediate neighborhood with the video store across the street, the pizza
place just up the block and the grocery store that employs kids from your
daughter's Sunday School class just a mile away all make up a local
neighborhood that you do have feelings for. So it is not wrong to want to make
an investment in the businesses and public use spaces that will improve the
quality of life for everyone you know.

Too often we sit around and wait for the government to kick in and make our
lives better and improve things are broken down. We put too much value on the
idea that "I paid my taxes, not the mayor can just get down here and fix our
park". The pivotal word in that complaint is "our". The town you live in and
particularly the part that means a lot to you is yours and it is all of our
jobs to take care of what means a lot to us.

At the local level, it is the local merchant who can really make a difference
in improving the quality of life for his family and the families that shop with
him. By working together with other local merchants, you can fund small
community service projects and even get out of the store and roll up your
sleeves and help out yourself. When you do that, you will get a feeling of
pride in YOUR town and in your neighborhood. And that pride will be shared by
your neighbors who, incidentally, are also your best customers.

How the Rich Really Get Richer

Somehow we have a fascination and sometimes a disgust toward the wealthiest
people in our society. To be sure, they are the ones that get a lot of
attention in the tabloids and television talk shows. And the paparazzi love
them. But at the same time, we tend to look down on them. We assume that they
are spoiled, perhaps got their wealth through unscrupulous means and that they
cannot understand the day in day out struggles that the "common folks" go
through every day.

But there is another side to the lifestyle of the most fortunate in society and
that is their philanthropic and community service work that they do. There is no
question that the wealthy have amazing abilities to generate revenue and build
powerful and successful businesses. But it seems that once people reach a
certain level of wealth, the urge takes over to give to the community and
provide the means for some truly great community service work to be done.

There is a long precedent in the country for those who achieve the highest
level of success to turn that success around and put
it right back into the community. One of the great philanthropists of the
American business community was David Packard, one of the founders of Hewlett
Packard. Throughout his career, he never allowed the trappings of wealth to
affect his lifestyle or his values. So when he had achieved great success, he
turned right around and started the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. This
ongoing community service organization uses the tremendous endowment of funds
that David Packard passed to it in his will to fund dozens of worthwhile
community service projects including preschools, community centers, health care
for children and children's hospitals.

A more up to date example of a very rich and successful business man turning
that wealth to community service is Bill Gates, the entrepreneur who started
Microsoft. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gives literally millions to
dozens of worthy projects that are set up to help ease the plight of those
victimized by global poverty and illness as well finding ways to encourage
global development to help put an end to poverty once and for all.

Looking at this charitable work on the outside, you might think that the rich
of our society do this kind of thing for a tax write off or because they feel
guilty for all they take out of society. And sure, there are no doubt some of
that social class who function out of those motivations. But a higher
motivation often is what drives the wealthy to want to do their part.

In many cases, such as Bill Gates, the wealth they have come to know was a
byproduct of their brilliant work with their field of endeavor. They never set
out to be rich but the marketplace rewarded them for innovation, invention or
superior business abilities. These individuals are like you and I in that they
set out in life to be as successful as they can be. And just like you and I,
many of the wealthy know that being a success in life means more than just your
bank account or how new your car is.

So by using the blessings their success has given them to help others, the
wealthy get a different kind of fulfillment from life than just luxury and fine
living. They learn what many of us already know that to achieve true fulfillment
in life, you have to seek it from helping others. By coming down out of their
mansions and finding ways to help others in society, the rich discover that the
one who gets the most out of community service is the giver. We are fortunate to
such philanthropists who are using their wealth to help others. But they have
learned that our thanks is not the reward. They have learned that the way to
truly get richer is to enjoy a richer life and that there is no richer
experience in life than the joy of helping others through community service.

Helping Hands Around the World

When we think of community service, we almost always think in terms of our
local community. And reaching out to those in your own town is truly the most
dynamic type of community service. But there are dramatic examples of people
who reached out beyond the city limits of where they lived to really make a
difference in the lives of people around them.

Examples of ways that neighbors reached out to neighbors beyond their borders
and out into the larger community of the nation can be found in youth outreach
programs through local churches or community centers. Every year thousands of
youth spread out all over the country to help those less fortunate than
themselves. But there is one example of neighbor helping neighbor even past the
borders of our country. This is an example of government working hand in hand
with citizens to extend helping hands around the world. And that example of
community service on a global scale is the Peace Corps.

The idea of the Peace Corps was the brainchild of dreamers during the 1960s, a
decade where the youth of America were searching for self-definition. It took a
dynamic leader like John F. Kennedy to take that vision and find a way to
organize it into a government program that could capitalize on the energy, the
good will and the enthusiasm of youth to reach out to nations around the world.
The idea had gained sufficient momentum that it became an important part of
Kennedy's campaign for the presidency so much so that when President Kennedy
gave his inaugural speech, it was the Peace Corps he was talking about when he
uttered those historic words:

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you -- ask
what you can do for your country"

The Peace Corps has given tens of thousands of America's youth the opportunity
to become part of a large community service outreach where that opportunity may
not have existed before. Since its inception in 1960, over 187,000 people have
served in the Peace Corps.

If we take the time to reflect on the mission of the Peace Corps, it was truly
an ambitious undertaking. The scope of this new federal agency was well
summarized in the wording of the actual law that brought into being which
states that the Peace Corps was established: "to promote world peace and
friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested
countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service
abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help
the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained
manpower." One wonders how the Peace Corps really is a way for a young person
to ask what they can do for America in that it is an outreach to people in need
all over the world. But in truth, efforts like the Peace Corps have done as much
to promote democracy and to build good will between foreign nations and the
United States as any official ambassador or formal meeting of heads of states
could ever do.

The Peace Corps has build relationships between peoples at the local level. And
it is when the citizens of nations around the world see the true hearts of
Americans and that sense of trust and good will is built up between peoples
that the good will that naturally happens on a Peace Corps outing begins to
take root and change opinions on a national level about what America is really
all about.

We can only hope that the Peace Corps continues to do its good work for many
generations to come. The friendship it builds between people of all
nationalities can go further to spread democracy and our way of life than any
war can do. And in doing so, it fulfills the dream of President Kennedy that
America's youth would be more about helping others than their own ambitions and
that this would be his legacy to America and indeed to all the world.

Getting the Government out of Community Service

We live in a time when we tend to look to the government to do a lot of things.
For some reason, we tend to think that just because we have to pay taxes, it is
our government's job to fix everything that is broke and arrest anybody we
don't like. But if we can get a more rational view of what the government can
do and moreover what it cannot do, we then can define what is local and should
be handled by people in our own comity.

There are many projects that are just outside of what the government ought to
be sticking their noses into. This is particularly true concerning the federal
government. Too often we push to the national level discussions and decisions
about the quality of life in our own communities when no matter what the
federal government does, nothing will make our communities a better place to
live more than people coming together as neighbors to make it so.

A good example is the care of local parks and public areas. If we expect the
government to pay a service that has no connection to our community to come in
and make things right in the public spaces used by our children and that are
important to our neighbors, we can be sure the job isn't going to get done
right. One of the reasons that there is a general disrespect for public
gathering spaces is that people don't see those spaces as part of their local
community. If you think you are littering on yet another piece of government
property, you won't think twice about treating it with disrespect because it
isn't yours.

It really is a matter of ownership. When we get together as a community and put
together community service projects, we are making a statement that this area of
our neighborhood belongs to us and it our job to make it nice. A great example
of how this can work so well is a new phenomenon of the neighborhood swimming
pool. As more public pools have to close, many neighborhoods are coming
together, funding the land and construction and having a pool built for that
neighborhood so everybody's kids can have a place to swim.

Without fail these kinds of community spaces are better taken care of and even
safer than the old public pools, run by the government, ever were. People are
not as prone to leave them in a mess because these are your neighbors living
next door to the pool. When young people are there swimming, it isn't just the
lifeguards watching out for their safety. The entire neighborhood is taking
responsibility for the safety of those kids. And the result is a safer, cleaner
and better community space than could ever have happened if the government had
built the pool.

Our local, state and federal governments all have important jobs to do. We need
them to make our streets safe to drive, to keep the lights on, to make sure jobs
are coming to the state and to keep our relationship with the rest of the world
working well. When they do their jobs well, our lives improve because of it.
But when the government gets in the middle of projects where they just don't
belong, the outcome is almost always a disaster. So, as a people living in a
country run by the people, it is our job to make sure that we take care of the
community service and we keep the government out of things that are none of
their business and make sure they are doing what is their business. Everybody
wins that way.

Young Hands Making a Difference

What is the more important goal of any kid? Well if you are a kid or have a
kid, you can guess the answer right away. It isn't concerns about having enough
to eat, where they will sleep or whether the bomb will be dropped tomorrow. No
the worse fate that can befall a kid is summed up in one plea -- "What can I do?
I'm bored!"

It may seem like an odd suggestion then, to both the kid out there and to the
ones charged with battling this dread affliction of "boredom" in the kids on
our lives that there is one medicine for boredom that you may not have given a
chance. And that is community service.

Now this may be a tough sell because on the surface, community service isn't a
toy or a video game or something designed to entertain kids. It is something so
much different from any of those repacked amusements. It's for real. Lots of
computer games are made to give you the feeling you created something whether
it's a city, an alien planet or a spaceship. But when you turn off the
computer, that creation is gone because it never was real.

With community service you DO create something and not by talking to a pretend
civilization on the computer screen. Oh no, what you create is real, it will be
there tomorrow when you go back. And you are dealing with real people and
solving real problems. All of a sudden, the kid isn't so much a kid any more.
He or she is a valuable member of the community, just like an adult and there
is not better feeling than that!

There are tons of other great reasons to get involved in community service this
summer or as a hobby to replace the endless hours playing computer games. There
is such a huge variety of things you can get involved with through community
service that you can get your hands dirty on a hobby or an interest that you
really want to be involved in. And you won't be just enjoying that great
interest by yourself because you will be working side by side with other
youths, older kids in college or beyond, young dads and moms and even
grandparents all who don't want to sit home and be bored and would rather be
out there being somebody for someone else.

Volunteering can even give you as much variety as playing games or fooling
around with toys might give you and you don't have to beg mom and dad to buy
you a thing. In most towns or cities, there is a community service coordinating
group that will have dozens and dozens of ways you can plug in and do something
for someone else. Some of the great ways you can pitch in and help out might

*  Helping stock food that will go out to famine victims or hurricane survivors.

*  Serving meals at the homeless shelter to families who really need the help.
In fact, after the meal is over, those homeless kids would like nothing more
than to spend a few hours with some new friends enjoying a simple game or just
learning about each other.

*  Help the Special Olympics put on one of their athletic outings. If you or
your kids love sports, what better way to put that skill to work helping others
than letting someone who isn't as lucky as you know that great feeling of
winning a race or sinking a basket.

*  Reading to a shut in or to the blind. You think its great hearing a story?
You haven't had a thrill until you read it to someone else who has never heard
it and you see their face as they enjoy every new twist and turn of the plot.

Community service gives young hands a chance to really make a difference to
others in the community. But maybe the most important thing it does is it opens
kid's eyes to how great it is to stop worrying about themselves and help someone
else out for a little while. It is the kind of addiction your mom and dad will
be glad you got into. And chances are you will never again complain, "What can
I do? I'm bored!"

Children Reaching Children

War is a terrible thing. And the war we are trying to get through right now
sure has its share of brutality and loss of life. The sad thing is that it is
the children who are most affected by such a war. And they are the ones who
least understand what is going on around them.

But even in situations as sad and desperate as a war zone, you can sometimes
find rays of hope and moments where people reach out to each other in a way
that really helps. One such way happens every time that children in our country
reach out to children half way around the world. This happens every day through
the many school projects that help kids find a way to send some needed
supplies, a letter of encouragement and some joy to the children overseas who
are enduring war in their country.

These kinds of community service projects that teachers in thousands of school
rooms all over America have their children do, go far to help bring
international understanding and hope between peoples. It is safe to say that
these outreaches do as much or more for the children extending the help as they
do for the children to receive the packages from strangers far away.

This is community service at the largest possible scale. We can call it that
because when children reach out and help other children, even hardened and
syndical adults are touched because we see a global community, the community of
mankind and the community of children everywhere rise up to help others in need.
The good this does is just as valuable as a community service project as any
effort to pick up trash in the park or to gather food for the homeless, as good
as those efforts are.

For the children on the giving end of these community outreaches, the learning
experience is invaluable. Many times the teachers will use an American solider
someone knows as a point of contact. That brave soldier can make sure the gifts
sent by the children get to local children of a similar age. If he can take some
pictures or a video that can be sent back to America, the excitement the givers
of the gifts experience is electric.

Too often we all watch stories of atrocities or the suffering of war and we
cannot really connect to what is going on because it is so far away and those
people are not really connected to us. But when these children send presents to
children suffering the affects of war, they gain a sense of connection, an
empathy and that "brotherhood" or sisterhood with children far away who have
the same hopes, dreams and daily needs that the kids in their classroom have.

When a teacher takes their class through an exercise like this, the lesson time
always pays off because the teacher and the parents of the children see an
immediate interest in the far away affairs in these kids. It can be
disconcerting to a parent to see their elementary school age child glued to the
evening news and the coverage of the war to see if they can spot a child that
might have received their package. All of a sudden, those far away children are
real and all our kids want for them is for them to enjoy a simple toy, a nice
thing to eat and a quiet day when nobody in their family dies.

For the children in a war zone, these packages can be as much of a revelation
as it is for the senders. They can look at the pictures of children from
America who took the time to send something just for them. All of a sudden,
American children are just like them and they care. A simple gift like this can
change a heart from one of hate to one of a child who has found a friend. We
should be happy our teachers are helping our kids connect to far away children
and that the result is our kids empathize with people suffering around the
world. These lessons will make them better citizens of their communities, of
their country and of the world when they are grown and raising children of
their own.

Can Mandatory Community Service Work?

Lots of organizations coordinate youth community service work. And you would be
hard pressed to find anyone who would oppose the idea of kids pitching in and
helping out make the community a better place for everybody to live. It's good
for the community because we are using that boundless energy and physical
stamina of youth for a good cause. It's good for the causes helped because
there is no end of work to be done. And it's good for the kids because it helps
them think about other people, it gives them a strong sense of self-esteem and
it helps them learn new skills and meet others in the community they might
never meet otherwise.

But when those in leadership at the local, state or national level propose some
form of uniform mandatory community service for youth that seems to change the
nature of the program so dramatically that the discussion turns sour pretty

It might be that the term "mandatory community service" has a negative
connotation because so often, that is part of the sentencing of someone who has
run afoul of the law and is given so many hundred hours of community service to
pay back their debt to society. So if we are going to implement any form of
mandatory community service for teenagers or kids on our society, we need to
think it through and take advantage or programs that have successfully mandated
community service for kids and have had success.

There are ample examples of youth organizations that have worked community
service into their programs so successfully that the youth perform the service
with enthusiasm and actually have a lot of fun with it. And that is the spirit
you want everyone to have on a community service project, adult and youth
alike. Often times voluntary school programs such as band, academic clubs,
other competitive societies such as chess or debate clubs will include a form
of community service as part of the requirements for membership. The service
can be integrated with the activity such as having the chess club members spend
a day a month at the shelter teaching chess to homeless kids. The youth
associate their ambitions to become great at the skill they are seeking with
sharing that skill with others.

Churches and youth organizations not affiliated with schools also have great
success with community service. When you see a church youth group outside the
walls of the church, you can bet they are probably busy painting someone's
porch, feeding the less fortunate or doing something of value for the
community. The church can put a positive slant on it that fits with the mission
of the organization by calling it a "mission to our own town" but the outcome is
the same.

One of the most outstanding examples of an organization that turns community
service into a value that is eagerly sought by their youth is the Boy Scouts of
America. In Boy Scouts, the young men must complete a certain number of hours of
organized "service hours" to make the next rank in scouting. The program places
a high value on advancing in rank, which is rewarded with pomp and circumstance
during the advancement ceremony and badges for their uniforms, which young men
pursue with zeal.

The key is to tie the community service to something the youth want to do. If
the mandatory community service is integrated with advancement, achievement and
rewards, the short term "pay off" is all a kid needs to roll their sleeves up
and get in there and work. And if they have fun side by side with adults they
admire, you have a formula for a program of mandatory community service for
youth that is sure to be a success.

A Rich Retirement

Whether it is you who is approaching those golden years we call retirement or
one of your loved ones is in those years, there is no question that making that
transition from the working world and decades of responsibility and hard work is
not always easy. The sudden change of lifestyle and that feeling of "no longer
being useful" is one of the most difficult aspects of retirement and growing
older. When you combine that with reduced activity and the natural decline in
physical ability that aging brings, you have a powerful emotional transition to
go through.

That is why people who actively counsel the elderly have learned that the most
positive thing a person can do to combat that depression and sense of
"uselessness" that plaques retirees is to make themselves useful. And there is
no better place for them to do that than in community service.

There are a variety of great reasons that volunteerism among the elderly is
such a great idea. And if you are in a position to counsel an aging family
member or friend, it is important to remember that doing community service is
not all about being charitable and helping out the down and out. It is just as
much about the health and well-being of the retiree as it is for the good of
the community and the people in it.

By getting out into the community and finding rewarding ways to perform
community service, that sense of "being needed" and being a part of something
is given back to the retiree. Community service and the retirement set are a
perfect match for each other. People who are staffing community service
projects are always in need of an army of qualified and mature help, especially
from those who have sufficient time to really do a good job with a community
service project.

This is just right for retiree who if anything suffers with too much time on
their hands. Too often, that time can be turned to self-pity or indulging in
less than healthy lifestyle choice. Community service is, after all, "work".
And as a people who are enjoying their rewards from a lifetime of work, this is
just the thing to transition to a life of retirement.

Community service can also call upon the elderly to participate in some level
of physical activity. Now your local community service coordinator can make
sure that their elderly volunteers are given assignments appropriate to their
physical abilities. But just getting out there and greeting others, reading to
the blind, helping with a food or blood drive or jumping in where they can on a
big community project gets the blood moving and maybe just the right kind of
exercise they need to stay active and healthy.

Community service also provides opportunities to socialize with people of all
ages and social backgrounds. One of the greatest dangers of a retirement
lifestyle is the loneliness and isolation stepping out of the working world
causes. Even if the elderly person lives in a retirement community, the chance
to socialize with younger people and people of many backgrounds and
orientations is tremendously healthy for the mental stability of one in that
stage of life.

The benefits to the retiree of getting involved in community service are many.
But giving that retired person that sense of personal value and worth that they
have come to expect from each day's work is valuable beyond measurement. Many
community service projects are short term so the volunteers get that immediate
gratification that gives anyone a boost, but even more so a retiree who feels
left out and not useful. Community service may be just the medicine to cure
those ills.

Those Men on Tiny Motorcycles and the Funny Hats

On the children's cartoon, The Flintstones, Fred and Barney belong to a
fraternal organization that takes up quite a bit of their time. It is called
the Loyal Order of the Buffalo and their leader is the Grand Poobah. This is a
funny reference to several important organizations that make a genuine
contribution to the community through their many philanthropic and community
service efforts. In almost every small town and big city in America there are a
number of men's fraternal organizations that gather together routinely, just
like the Loyal Order of the Water Buffalo did on The Flintstones.

Now we won't say that some of the things the men who gather in these groups do
is not as fun and light hearted as it depicted on The Flintstones. These
organizations which include The Lions Club, The Rotary Club, The Scottish Rite,
The Knights of Columbus, The Kiwanis and the Shiners go back many generations in
our culture and provide valuable networking opportunities for men in every
community they serve.

There is some secrecy that goes on with these fraternal organizations but that
secrecy is not insidious as some have suggested. The charters of these
organizations are universally benevolent and dedicated to three important
principles. Those are (1) fellowship for men to network with each other and
gather to discuss community issues (2) fun that is wholesome and provides a
venue where men can enjoy each other's company in an acceptable manner and (3)
community service.

It is that last core value that we in the community see the most often when
these fraternal organizations mobilize to take on an important need in the
community. Because these organizations are often populated by business leaders,
religious clergy and influential men of all walks of life, when they put their
minds to get something done for the community, they have the leadership, the
resources, the money, the talent and the self will to get things done. It is in
the area of community service that these fraternal organizations are the most
valuable to any community.

None are more recognizable as the Shiners. The Shiners of North America are
well known because of the famous Shrine Circus that makes its way around the
country each year. Many children can remember going to their first Shrine
Circus parade and seeing those men come charging down the street on those tiny
little motorcycles or in tiny little cars all wearing that tall red hat, called
a "fez" which is part of the uniform of a Shrine. This sense of fun and their
desire to bring joy and laughter to families is one of the reasons the Shiners
are such a beloved organization in our communities.

This circus is almost as famous as the Ringling Brother's circus and it holds
special meaning for a lot of families. That is because this is just one dozens
of ways the Shiners raise money for their biggest community service project of
them all. In fact the community service the Shiners do has been called the
World's Greatest Philanthropy. That is because this fraternal organization has
built and continues to operate 22 hospitals for children all over the country.

The stories of miracles that have been done to save the lives of children in
the Shiners children's hospitals are numerous. These wonderful hospitals offer
care for children with life threatening diseases to whom they provide the
finest of medical care. Even more amazing is that children who receive care at
these hospitals are never required to be associated with the Shrine
organization and many times the care they receive is given to them free of

It is heartwarming to see the good the Shiners of North America do each year as
they hold parades, trips, dances, dinners, sporting events and that wonderful
circus to raise money for their hospitals for children. It is amazing what a
bunch of men on tiny motorcycles and wearing funny hats can do when they put
their minds to it.

A Different Kind of Christmas

Each year as Christmas season begins to go into full gear, we hear the
complaint that Christmas has become commercialized and we have forgotten "The
true meaning of Christmas." When we make that observation, it must come from a
nostalgic time, perhaps when we were children, and we remember Christmas being
about the sacrifice of the Christ child and that the gifts we give reflect the
gift of life that God has brought to us.

Even if our Christmas time is not full of religious imagery, the stories and
carols and traditions of the Christmas season point to values that are more
about giving to each other out of the heart and being together as family more
than the economic side of the season and the hustle and bustle that can weary
the soul more than bless it.

That is why this year it might be a time to think about trying a different kind
of Christmas. If you feel that your family has gotten too bogged down in the
commercial aspect of the holiday, maybe there is way to remind each other that
Christmas is about giving between people and sharing with others in order to
allow there to be "peace and good will among men".

One way to bring the spirit of the season back is to reintroduce your family to
the idea of doing something for someone less fortunate in a very dynamic and
meaningful way. Oh sure, we like to give a few coins to the Santa on the corner
collecting for the Salvation Army or buy a toy for the tree at the mall that
will eventually be given to a poor child. But you and your family do not get to
enjoy the thrill of actually giving to someone less fortunate and enjoying the
fellowship, the gratitude and the since of bonding that kind of giving, when
done face to face, can bring.

To get to that "next level" of making giving to others meaningful, nothing can
beat a good family community service project at the holidays to bring home the
true meaning of the season to everybody in the family. There are dozens of
causes around the holidays that are always in need of lots of help that you can
volunteer your family to be involved with during the Christmas season. If you
feel that your family might need to starter project before actually going and
working with the less fortunate, you can help with the collection of goods and
the organization of what is given in preparation for delivery.

Many civic organizations collect mountains of toys, clothing and canned goods
that will be split up into packages to be delivered to thousands of families in
need of such things during the holidays. You can find such an organization and
make an appointment to meet at their warehouse and help sort out the goods that
have come in and package them up for delivery. Its hard work but as you and your
family work to lovingly prepare these presents for others, it is so much more
meaningful and in touch with the spirit of the season. Everybody will remember
that Christmas fro a long time to come.

But to really make the joy of Christmas become the joy of reaching out to
others, serving Christmas dinner to the homeless or to those who are down and
out will be an experience that will change the way your children view Christmas
forever. You don't have to necessarily open your home to strangers to show
hospitality to others. It is understandable that having people you don't know
around your table at home could be a little frightening and more than you are
ready to take on.

But if you can include with your Christmas eve or Christmas day festivities
that after the gifts are opened and big Christmas meal is done, everybody gets
in the cars and goes to the shelter to share their love and to serve dinner to
others the way they have to generously received, that will go a long way toward
capturing the sprit of the holiday for those you are helping and for your family
as well. For all involved, it will truly be a different kind of Christmas.

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