Friday, October 8, 2004

Weekend Assignment: National Volunteer Day

Weekend Assignment #28: The United States Congress (or appropriate legislative body in the country in which you live) has vested in you the power create exactly one National Holiday, celebrating anyone or anything you want, no questions asked. What is the name of your holiday, what does it celebrate, and how should we celebrate it?

One Rule: It can't be a holiday that honors someone who already has a holiday. Share the wealth, people.

Extra credit: Name the holiday that already exists that you'd like to see have a higher profile.

This one stumped me for a day or so, but after reading about efforts to help Vivian replenish her clip art collection, here's what I came up with:

National Volunteer Day.

AIDS walkEveryone gets at least half a day off (most get a full day) to do some kind of community service.  Your good deed can be done individually or in groups, for a bunch of people or for one person in need.  Habitat for Humanity will have extra people at their work sites on that day, and the Girl Scouts will sell a lot more cookies. Church groups will pick up trash along migrant routes, highways or drug-infested alleys, make egg salad sandwiches for meal programs, visit hospitals and prisons, and do other good works. Doctors, dentists and other medical professionals will spend the day treating people who have no money or medical insurance. Lawyers will do their part later, helping to resolve any lawsuits and complaints that arise from Volunteer Day efforts. Universities will offer free one-day seminars on child care, eldercare, job hunting and basic computer skills. There will be an AIDS Walk in the morning, and a charity tournament to fight cancer in the afternoon. Entire offices will collect canned goods and winter clothing, and deliver them where they'll do some good. Seniors will babysit for their neighbors' children, so that the parents can get out and do things. A teenager will mow a senior's lawn, show her how to get into a seniors-only chat room, or just sit with her for a while. Some people will throw money at society's problems, but on this day, they'll be expected to do so in person.

paint projectAt the end of the day, there will be local events at ballparks and other public places. There will be recognition for some of the previous year's best deeds, and presentations by charities on what still needs to be done, followed by a free concert and fireworks. There will be no other incentive (aside from the usual tax deductions), and no penalty for not helping, just peer pressure, whatever altruism each individual can muster, and a lot of societal support to make it easier to do. By the time National Volunteer Day is over, people will be so enthused about what they've accomplished that many of them will volunteer on other days, too.

My point of view on all this: Do you know someone who's old and alone?I'm not good at world-saving stuff. Other than church-related tasks and the occasional donation,  I haven't done any volunteer work or community service since about 9th grade. I think I was about fifteen when Father Matthews took a small group of volunteers from St. Ann's Church to Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Syracuse to tutor kids in reading. Father Matthews drove the newly-acquired bus, having just gotten a bus driver's endorsement to do so. It was orangey-yellow, but it said Church Bus on the front instead of School Bus.

I don't remember the name of the girl to whom I was assigned in the tutoring program. She was in third grade, reading second grade books. She could read most of the individual words, but there was no comprehension that the words formed a meaningful sentence, much less a story. They were just a series of words to be sounded out, in between running off across the school gym to do whatever seemed like more fun.  I had no clue how to get through to her that the words told a story, and that they were worth her time. I was just a kid myself, with no training in how to teach someone with whatever learning disability this particular kid seemed to have. After two weeks, I quit trying, and never went back. I hope that someone better qualified was able to help this girl eventually. She surely needed more than I was equipped to give her.

Casa Maria needs sandwiches.Come to think of it, I have done one community service task since then that was both offline and beyond the adobe walls of St. Michael's And All Angels Church. Every year, St. Michael's has an Angel Tree. Each paper ornament has the name and age of a child, clothing size, and a suggestion of what to get for him or her. Half the ornaments are for the children of prisoners, the rest for Native American children living in poverty. One year I volunteered to deliver gifts to five families of prisoners' children, ostensibly from the imprisoned parents. It was interesting and rewarding, but also kind of terrifying for me, ringing doorbells at the homes of strangers.

I like to think that the things I do for St. Michael's are at least a little valuable to somebody sometimes, but I'm still no good with volunteering out in the wide world. Maybe if everyone was doing good deeds all over town, it would be a little less scary for an individual like me to pitch in, and do some helpful and worthwhile thing she's never done before.  I think I'd probably give Habitat for Humanity a try one year. The next year I'd do something else.

fireworks would be okay too.Extra Credit: When I was a kid, Memorial Day was a day for parades, picnics and remembering the dead. Does anyone do any of that stuff any more, or is it just a day off as we swing into summer mode? I want to see Girl Scouts and firefighters and school bands marching down the street as I wave a little flag. Then I want to stop by East Lawn, come home or maybe drive into the mountains, play badminton or Monopoly, hit the batting cages or or go birdwatching with John  - anything, as long as we do it together - and then have steak and salad at sunset. Is that so wrong?



madmanadhd said...

Excellent idea! Where do I sign up? Many national organizations depend on volunteers to get funding and carry out vital work. My brother-in-law has just begun volunteering for his local Hospice chapter and claims Hospice has to have a percentage of volunteers to maintain funding. This day could get others "hooked" on helping others. Volunteering WITH others takes some of the fear and unknown out of it and gives it that sense of "community" vital for true community service. Bravo on your holiday. I too remember a more reflective Memorial Day. As a child I marched for several years in our local parade, all decked out in my Cub Scout and then Boy Scout regalia. Still remember marching up to the cemetery and seeing all those markers lined up and receding as far as my little eyes could view. Please feel welcome to stop on over and read about my proposal for a national holiday and let me know what you think......     Toodles

alphawoman1 said...

This is an excellent idea!  So terrific you should not let it go....campaign to get the mayor to acknowledge what a great idea then work your way up!  Maybe you could write a story aboout " What if.........?"  Absolutely wocderful idea.

ryanagi said...

I love it! old company used to do this. We got 2 days, actually, if we wanted to volunteer for a community service project.

sdoscher458 said...

I love it...the world would really benefit...and I picked Memorial Day used to be celebrated in full glory...not anymore..shame on us...Sandi