Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer and was created as a way to honor those who died while serving our country. In memory of these men and women, if you have some extra time this three-day weekend, why not use your day off to serve others? From tiny tots to senior citizens, everyone can get involved to give back to their communities this holiday. Here are some ideas how to do it:
For parents with young children … host a lemonade stand
Alex Scott was diagnosed with neuroblastoma before she turned one. Though her prognosis wasn’t good, she improved. When she turned four, she decided she wanted to give money to help other kids with her condition. She started a lemonade stand and went on to raise more than $1 million to help find a cure for childhood cancer.
Alex passed away when she was 8 years old, but Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation lives on. Kids can take inspiration from Alex and host a lemonade stand for charity. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose production — just some cold lemonade on ice does the trick. Kids can tell passersby and lemonade customers about the cause they’re donating to. They’ll get a taste of what it’s like to run a business and a taste for what altruism feels like. They’ll learn that little humans can have a big impact on their communities.
For parents of teenagers … Volunteer or Organize for Veterans
U.S. teens today have never lived in a world with war in their backyard. Other than the terrible events of 9/11, they’ve experienced little unrest on our home soil.
Because of this, it’s easy to be disconnected and take for granted the safety and security our troops provide us, both in the past and present.
Teens can better understand the significance of those who have served by volunteering at a nearby Veterans’ Association. Options for volunteer positions vary greatly by location, but can include honoring veterans at a cemetery, helping transport vets to and from appointments, taking part or helping organize “Welcome Home” celebrations and working with homeless vets and their dependents. Learn more about volunteer opportunities by visiting Volunteer.va.gov.
Teens also have an opportunity to create or support an event through the Wounded Warrior Project, which supports veterans and their families in many different ways. Enlist a school sports team or club to run. Register the event, fundraise and give back.
For college-aged young adults … Perform Random Acts of Kindness
It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re talking to the customer service representative at your internet provider, or to be impatient when Starbucks makes your coffee incorrectly.
According to Harvard University School of Public Health, chronic anger and anxiety disrupts cardiac function. This “toxic stress,” as they call it, means a positive attitude is healthier than a negative one.
Researchers at Anderson University School of Humanities further this idea by saying the act of performing kindness promotes life satisfaction. But it’s not just psychological. David R. Hamilton, PhD, says kindness releases oxytocin, which leads to lower blood pressure. Kindness is literally good for your heart.
Use the long weekend to reset your mind for kindness. Some ideas:
- Leave a note or a $5 bill in your favorite book at the library or bookstore.
- Plant a tree.
- Buy coffee or lunch for the person behind you in line.
- Send a card to someone you know could use some encouragement.
- Put an extra quarter in the parking meter for someone else.
- Give your boss a compliment.
- Leave a good review for a favorite restaurant.
- Treat your neighbors to homemade cookies.
- Pick up litter at your local park.
Being nice feels good.
For middle-aged adults … Take Up Gardening
The edge of summer is the perfect time to invest time in a new hobby. May we suggest gardening?
The turn toward warmer weather and more sunshine makes plants and flowers (and people) very happy. Use your long weekend to plant a community garden, or create a garden in your backyard and then invite neighbors over to enjoy the fresh produce.
The end of May and beginning of June is the perfect time to plant summer squash, melons, beans, herbs and root veggies like carrots and beets. And, it’s also not too late for flowers. Plant marigolds, sunflowers and nasturtiums; you’ll have bunches in time for Labor Day.
If you’re going to community garden route, let it be an adventure for the whole neighborhood. Learn alongside others about how to plant, what to pick and when. Encourage your community to come together over food, something everyone has in common. Cultivating a garden will help you to better understand what goes into growing fresh food. You’ll keep it local, and you’ll be inspired to create healthy home-cooked meals.
And don’t forget to donate any extra fresh produce or fruit you grow through gleaning, a process in which your extras can be used to feed those in need. You can find out the best way to do that in your region by visiting the United We Serve Gleaning Toolkit.
For seniors … Send a Care Package
Remember that feeling when you were a kid at summer camp and you received a package from home? No matter how old, everyone loves a care package. Give a serviceman or woman that feeling.
For those serving abroad, a care package is more than just getting a few fun items in the mail. It’s validation of brave service, a thank you, and a way to bridge the distance home. Military.com provides an extensive list of package contents. Here are a few:
- Hard candies, anything that won’t melt or leak
- Phone cards so they can call home overseas
- Powdered drink mixes like hot cocoa, lemonade or iced tea
- Current magazines
- Word puzzles
- Indoor games like checkers or Uno and outdoor games, like a soccer ball or Frisbee
- The Sunday Comics
Pack up a single box. Or get together with friends and family, and together, pack and send out a dozen. The U.S. Postal Service provides discounted shipping for Flat-Rate boxes to AFO and FPO addresses.
Whatever you do this Memorial Day weekend, honor service by being of service.