A Day On, Not Off

Yesterday was MLK Day.  What does that mean (other than a cold Monday in January)?  It's a federal holiday and I am blessed to work for a company that give me this day off.  My son is also off from school.  And while I appreciate a three day weekend (who doesn't), I think the weekend should be more than  just sleeping in and getting a good deal from some retailer.  I mean when did President's Day become a day to get a good deal on a car?  Or Memorial Day the time to get a bargain on bathing suits?  I seriously fear for the time, and you KNOW it's coming when we have an MLK Linen Sale (AKA:  A WHITE sale!)

Doing some quick internet research (ok, Google), here's an interesting tidbit that you MAY or may not know:  "In 1994, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a "day on, not a day off." The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President's national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems."  (This is taken directly from the AASCU, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, website...thank you!)

With limited time and resources, what can I do?  Scratch that.  What can my FAMILY do, because we need to pass on the importance of the day, and the MEANING behind it, to the younger generation?  (Sadly, for me now, almost every generation is the younger generation!)

I had two thoughts:  keep it simple and keep it local.  Although my might be considered a relatively affluent town, the (often hidden) truth is there IS poverty here.  There are plenty of people who struggle to keep a roof over their head, to keep clothes on their backs and to feed their family.  (Confession time:  if it weren't for special circumstances and an abundance of blessings, my family would not be able to afford to live in this town.)  I can't help with the keeping the roof, but I can shout out ways to cloth and feed a family, without leaving the township.  The Presbyterian Church has a Thrift Shop (open Tuesdays and Saturdays) where gently used (and sometimes even brand new with tags on) clothing (as well as other household items) can be found at prices that incredibly reasonable (and sometimes beyond belief).  The Episcopalian  Church runs a food pantry (open the 4th Sunday of every month).  Recognizing the needs of the community, both churches will work individuals/families outside of their regularly scheduled “business" hours and both are incredibly sensitive to privacy. 

Having made many donations to the Thrift Shop (as well as making some incredible purchases there as well:  ask me about the little boys sports jacket that I got not too long after the shop opened and how I nearly cried when I returned it after several years because my son had outgrown it!), I thought now might be the time to give to the food pantry. (Which very smartly accepts donations in a 24-hour bin located in the church's parking lot!)

In all honesty, I HAVE given to the food pantry before, but indirectly.  As a member of the Presbyterian Church, we collect items weekly and then bring them to Episcopalian Church.  But this time I wanted our family to do something hands on.  So here's what I did.  

After Sunday services, I purchased (as I regularly do) gift certificates to one of our local grocery stores.  (5% of my gift card purchase goes back to the church, so it's a win/win situation.)  However, this time I ALSO purchased an additional card with the idea that my family would take the card and buy as much as we could for the food pantry. 
 I thought this would also be a great opportunity for my son to see how to stretch a dollar and to (hopefully) appreciate all that we have in our home's pantry. 

With a $25 Gift Card we were able to walk away with the following:
  • 4 Cans of soup
  • 12 Pack of ramen
  • mustard
  • 3 cans of beans
  • 4 boxes of pasta
  • 2 bottles of dishwashing detergent
  • 3 bottles of shampoo
  • 1 bottle of laundry detergent
  • 1 4 pack of soap
  • 2 boxes of tea bags
Not bad, but certainly not enough. (And in honesty, we went over our $25 budget.  Made me think what if I DIDN'T have the resources to throw in the extra few dollars?  What would I have put back?  What would my son have put back?)

Dropping the food off at the bin, it felt good to know that we were helping local residents.  But it felt bad too knowing that as much as we were helping, our resources were just a drop in the bucket.  The upside, it DID make my son think and he said he would like to do this again.  (Only caveat is that he'd like to do it when he was feeling better since he is, hopefully, getting over a cold.)  Perhaps this could be an annual day of service "event" for us?

But we don't HAVE to wait for the next MLK Day of Service, and neither do you.  Hunger in our town waits for no holiday.  Donations are always needed and ALWAYS are gratefully received.  I know I'll be thinking of that during my next grocery store run.  Won't you?


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