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  • Writer's pictureRebecca B.

Day of Service

First post of the New Year. And while there are many things that point to hope and coming stability for 2021, the disturbing overshadows the encouraging right now. This morning I drove my toddler to his pod daycare, and when we turned on the car, I turned off the radio. I got a good dose of Ollie's thoughts on Stinky and Dirty, whose Christmas decorations are still up, and what color race cars we should be after nap. And driving home, I listened to congressmen and women lobby for and against invoking the 25th amendment to remove our president from office, often referencing a mob that occupied our capitol. We are living in unprecedented times. Just when I think we've seen it all, more incomprehensible news is thrown in my face. Thank goodness I have my toddler's morning news as well. And that he is too young to understand any of this.

I have to admit, for the time being, I'm back to being a bit numb. It's a temporary defense mechanism. I will keep my head down, keep distancing, keep working. We will have leadership and access to the vaccine soon. But how do we get through this time gracefully? I think the answer is through community.

The big picture is overwhelming right now. But how are your neighbors doing? Is there an elderly person in your building who needs a dog walked or a home cooked meal? Is there a friend you've been wondering about during the pandemic, but haven't reached out to yet? Do you know a single mom or dad trying to homeschool and work at the same time, who could use a break or some errands run? The big picture is a mess and there are a lot of people debating how to make it right. In the meantime, lets take care of each other.

Small acts of kindness are getting me through right now. I say we start a kindness counter-movement. Not sure how to start or who to help? Well, it just so happens that there is a national day of service coming up this Monday, to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. I am embarrassed that I did not know this holiday has always been a day of service, since it's beginnings-- "A day on, not a day off" (read about the history here). What better way to honor this true leader than to give back. Choose one thing to do Monday, and perhaps pledge to continue it on a regular basis going forward. Concerned about the pandemic? Worry not: there are many volunteer opportunities that are virtual only. Here are five volunteer opportunity highlights--

1. Serve-A-Thon

The 2021 Serve-A-Thon will offer a series of virtual workshops on January 18th and 19th, addressing the intersectionality of food justice. There are many interesting topics and speakers to choose from, and at the end of each one there will be a volunteer opportunity with a partnering non-profit. Perhaps it will spark a lasting relationship. Check out the schedule and sign up!

2. Write Letters to New Yorkers In Need

Food Bank for New York City is hosting a virtual gathering where participants join via Zoom to write personal letters to New Yorkers in need. The letters will be sent to Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral and distributed with pantry bags to their clients, to remind them that their neighbors care. Register here to join the event.

3. Sleep Out

Covenant House's Sleep Out invites volunteers to give up their beds for one night to raise awareness and donations to support homeless youth. They provide support to all participants on how to do it from home and conversation starters to ask people to sponsor your efforts. Covenant House provides shelter, meals, sanctuary, and structure, to kids who need it. They are truly angels among us. Check out their website to set up your own Sleep Out and make it a meaningful experience for your family.

4. Tutor

Become an Academic Coach and help high schoolers with their Calculus, Physics, or Statistics homework. UPchieve’s Academic Coaches work one-on-one with low-income students via their online platform to help them with things like completing their homework, preparing for a test, or reviewing concepts that confused them from class. I know, sounds like a lot of time commitment, but it isn't! There is no minimum time commitment to be a volunteer. Instead, you'll select times on a 24/7 calendar when they can contact you if a student needs your help. They'll send you a text message when a kid has a question, but you're never committed to picking up a request because they contact more than one volunteer at once. It's a pretty great system, and how smart will you feel, getting back to calculus?!

5. Contribute to a Community Fridge

How is this just now a thing, it seems so obvious. Community fridges have popped up all over the city this year. People can contribute or take things as they wish, it's all honor system. There really isn't a more basic, simple way to take care of your community. Check out this article to find your closest fridge and how to start one of your own.

There you have it. Some ways to give back, to care for your community, and regain some personal sanity. Reading this after MLK Day? All these events are run by great organizations that have volunteer opportunities throughout the year. I challenge you to find some way to put some positivity out there and I bet you'll find a little hope for yourself. Happy New Year, NYC. We will get through, together.

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