Thursday, May 26, 2011

Joseph Biden Honors Students Who Serve

A you a true agent for social change? Would you do something good if no one was looking? Watch Vice President Joseph Biden's inspirational address to Parade Magazine's first All America Service Team Award winners at the White House on June 23, 2010.

Nominate a Student for the All America High School Service Team!
"It's about doing the right thing."

PARADE Magazine and generationOn, the global youth division of Points of Light Institute, are seeking nominations for The All-America High School Service Team, to recognize high school students who have made exemplary contributions in the service areas of: health, education, environment, economics or community. These students show service as a solution to solve community problems and the power of stories to inspire others to action.
The top 50 finalists, 10 per issue category, will receive certificates. The top 15 (3 per issue category), will receive a two-day paid trip to Washington, D.C. to receive their award and special recognition.
Deadline ends May 30. For more information on how to submit nominations, visit

Friday, May 13, 2011


I may have written about the good work of mercy once or twice before; I seem to need its presence in my life more lately. Due to stress, I'm not always at the top of my game. Exactly when I think I've mastered the art of juggling one more ball in the air, another two are thrown my way and I have to reach and stretch until my capacity increases. I suppose we should all be grateful for challenges that make us grow--I only wonder if I'll ever be able to coast in comfort or will I always feel like I'm trying to catch my breath. Time to take a few more things off my plate, to make it easier to focus on whatever it is that goes 'round and 'round in the air.

How to simplify a life that is already devoid of things such as movies, t.v., shopping, and ice cream? Answer email in chunks, don't check it so often. Let the voicemail handle the phone sometimes--especially when the cell phone breaks like mine did last week. I'm into a second week with no cell phone, and with an old broken one that I located in the garage (when it happens work). My daughter will be loaning me her old phone because I'm not willing to renew a contract for bad service in order to get the "deal" on a new phone. What does this have to do with mercy, you say? Everything. I'm not perfect--at keeping up with home, work, friends, or with life. Too much on my plate, as usual. I lost patience at home this week and had to ask forgiveness from my husband. I missed some email messages at work, due to a jammed inbox and a possessed junk mail folder, had to ask for re-sends and apologize for delays. I failed to check voicemail remotely for the broken phone and missed calls from people who are important to me, I'm still begging for mercy on that. And now, at the end of the week trying to stretch but still dropping balls along the way, I ask the Universe for mercy to help me grow into the demands on my life.

I am reminded that when we leave our hearts open to help, it finds us. Of course, the help that arrived this week was from countless volunteers, once again, at work. Mercy also came from kids and husband pitching in extra at home, and from friends giving me a second chance to connect. Some day I will "arrive," to a place where I can see that all this juggling of four-plus jobs at a high school made me the person who I will become. Today, I only wish to continue seeing this evidence of mercy in my life.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Abundant Helping Hands

My oldest
daughter Sheridan got married last weekend and it was one of the most memorable times of my life, a real "family affair". Grandparents, siblings, nieces, husbands, and my children all worked together to make decorations, food, and favors ahead of time; then we put it all together and took it back down in a matter of hours. It was the best kind of celebration, with my daughters and son with his girlfriend helping one another, and my stepchildren pitching in wherever they were asked. By the time we returned home after the special occasion, it was time to jump right into work and the usual routine the next morning with only a little time for reflection. I made it through the week until Friday, when I worked with two skilled parent volunteers to host our twice-annual community service fair at the school. Twenty five community organizations manned lunchtime booths to promote volunteer opportunities for our high school students.

As one might imagine, by that evening I started to run out of steam. I struggled to find the energy to even drive home, and realized Saturday's plans might go on without me. The one activity I had wanted to do was a California-wide annual community service project with my church congregation; I suppose celebrating a successful event here will have to by my contribution.

Bob and the boys got up at 7:30 on Saturday and met at the church, where dozens of volunteers were sent to their locations: Montalvo Center for the Arts, or Mount Umminum. Either way, it would be a job of weeding, heaving, lifting, and moving. From nine to noon, fifty people from our congregation completed a total of eight spring clean-up jobs assigned earlier by the Montalvo coordinators, and another group just as large did restoration work at Mount Umminum. The hardest part about our site, according to Bob and the boys, was staying clear of poison oak. Sometimes we take for granted all the trails and walkways that are cleared of this noxious weed. These volunteers had no fear, trusting their gloves and a post-cleanup shower to keep them from infection. They also worked on repairing an overhang, moving a giant woodpile, and clearing a ditch what would have taken a bulldozer to accomplish.

At church today, I heard accounts of some other Helping Hands activities around the area, as far away as San Diego; more than fifty thousand members of our faith from all ages came together in an effort to be of service to our communities and especially for our state parks. A nearby young adult congregation rebuilt fences at Calero Park, making an assembly line with their leader's instruction and competing with each other to see who could build the fastest fence. In San Diego, the church volunteers were asked to serve breakfast and to work as course monitors for a community-wide 10K race. In my experience, having run many 5-and-10Ks, a race can never have enough volunteers! I'm sorry I had to miss our annual community service event due to my own physical exhaustion, but I am blessed with the perspective of an observer which allows me to contemplate the service that is given all around me every day. Because of last weekend and my benefiting from helping hands of family and extended family in support of Sheridan's
Utah wedding, and after hearing about the monumental efforts of 50,000 church-member volunteers on one Saturday morning in support of parks and nonprofits in California, I feel blessed to be living in this time of abundant good works.

"By their fruits shall ye know them." (Matt. 7:16)