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Charity: It begins at home.

This year, President Obama has called for a National Day of Service to kick off the inaugural festivities and to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during an entire weekend dedicated to service. It’s an opportunity to get involved and teach your children how important service can be.

Opportunities abound for service every day. Whether it be volunteering to read aloud to students at local schools, or donating time or money to a soup kitchen, each of us can find a way to participate and be active in our communities. But not only do we have the opportunity, I believe that we have the responsibility. It is incumbent upon each of us to teach our children the importance of building strong communities and investing in the future.

Growing up, my parents and our school encouraged us to get involved in volunteer activities. During my high school years, my family spent one night each week at a local nursing home playing Bingo with the residents. During our college years, my sister and I trained to become literacy tutors and became involved in political organizations. Today, she is vice-president of the Parent Teacher Organization at my niece’s local elementary school, while I serve as an elder in my church and teach Sunday School.

I find that our presence as parents/stepparents can further promote the idea of service. When our kids were in high school, we saved loose change in a vase in the kitchen. Whatever we had in our pockets made it’s way into the vase. We had a family meeting to determine what we would like to do with the money. The kids decided to give the money to a child who needed money and shoes to attend a basketball camp where the younger two served as coaches. The following year, they voted to gift the money to our church to support a community dinner for the homeless. Having seen the value in supporting charities, they have all become involved in their own service projects.

Yes, life is busy and it would be easy to brush this message aside. But imagine the possibilities that await if we would all give of ourselves and invest in our kids’ futures. This coming holiday weekend, I challenge you to make a difference in whatever way you know how, whatever way you can.

Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something. ~Author Unknown

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