One of the things in my life that I am most grateful for is that I am the daughter of a quintessential Southern woman. My mother had the best heart of anyone I have ever known. Throughout most of my childhood our family wasn’t financially well off, but I know that our family life was priceless. I used to say that we grew up poor until I grew up and started working with families who really were poor. They had dirt floors and no plumbing and may not have eaten all day. Don’t think for a moment that there are not people living that way right here right now. Most of us live blind to the conditions that others may be enduring.
At any rate, my mother had to work many, many extra hours each week to support four children after my parents divorced. This left her few hours to volunteer for community activities, but she did what she could. Being the devout Christian woman that she was, she spent most of her “free” time doing church work. She raised the four of us — my two sisters, my younger brother and me — to care about those around us and to look for ways to make a difference in the world. The one thing I have to say for both of my parents is that they expected us to do right. They did not nag us or whine or preach. It was an understood expectation. I got just a couple of “whippings” when I was very small and that’s all it took. For the longest time, I really did not know how to spell “whippings” correctly because it was pronounced “whoopins,” but you know what I mean. And before anyone starts worrying about child abuse, let me just say that these whoopins hurt my feelings far more than they hurt my bottom. In my family, my mother never raised her voice and seldomly lost her temper. But to this day, the thought of disappointing her is still the worst thing in the world to me.
For the four of us, being involved at church, school and in the community were just givens. Because we were blessed, we were expected to give back to the world, to reach out to neighbors in need, and to help those less fortunate than ourselves. That expectation shaped how we grew up, our choices for vocations and how we would one day raise our own families. So as “Make a Difference Day” comes each fall, I think of my mother, who did not need a specific day in order to make a difference.
Living in this extremely hectic world, it may seem hard to find time to give back or to make a difference in our world. That is why the USA Weekend Magazine created “Make a Difference Day”. It’s an annual event that takes place on the fourth Saturday of every October. This year’s action day is Saturday, Oct. 25. Each year, approximately 3 million people care enough about their communities to volunteer on that day and tackle thousands of projects in thousands of communities. Anyone can volunteer for a project to helps others. Young or old. Individuals, groups or families. Everyone can get involved. A project could involve collecting truckloads of clothing for the homeless, spending an afternoon helping an elderly neighbor or participating in a roadside or waterway cleanup in your community. USA Weekend features volunteers and their projects in articles and photos. To participate, you can register online on their Web site, www.usaweekend.com.
But don’t get lost in the process. “Make a Difference Day” is advertised as a “celebration of neighbors helping neighbors.” Isn’t that truly what all communities really need? If people would go back to doing things for our neighbors in need and those less fortunate, we would need a lot less government intervention and spending. What the world really needs is more of us caring and reaching out to make a difference for others and for our Earth — without being told to do so.
Sure, I hope many folks will choose to help with our Rivers Alive events on Oct. 25, because I do believe what we do to our world, we are doing to ourselves. But if you can’t help with Rivers Alive, consider volunteering with one of the many worthy groups or churches in our community. I am writing about this now so you, your family, friends and neighbors can take some time and plan a way to make a difference. I hope you will. My mother — and I am sure your mother, too — will be proud of you.
Upcoming Keep Liberty Beautiful projects that need YOUR involvement:
• Win-dex Award nominations for the third quarter will be accepted through Tuesday, Sept. 30. Nominate your choice for the most attractive business in our community.
• Oct. 25: Rivers Alive in Liberty County is scheduled for “Make a Difference Day.” Mark the date on your calendar now to help with this annual event. Call 368-4888 or e-mail email@example.com to volunteer.
• Coming soon: Coastal Living Holiday House. The house is loaded with ideas for holiday decorating and livng green. Tours begin in October and proceeds will benefit our local United Way.
• Oct. 25: Munchkin Scarecrow contest at the Community Fall Festival. Help us recycle kids clothes for this fun event. If you have children’s clothes that you would like to donate for this recycling project, call 368-4888.
• Liberty County: Home of the world’s largest crayon. Please help us make this Guinness Book of World Records project a reality by calling 368-4888 or e-mailing biglibertycrayon@ yahoo.com. We have more than 800 pounds of crayons now, but we want even more to create a giant crayon.
For more information on Keep Liberty County Beautiful programs, contact Swida at 368-4888 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.