Giving For The Sake of Giving

The results of our recent national elections underscore that we are a nation divided. That divide seems much deeper and more convoluted than many had initially thought. Our President along with the entire Congress has ...

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The results of our recent national elections underscore that we are a nation divided. That divide seems much deeper and more convoluted than many had initially thought. Our President along with the entire Congress has the unique challenge of finding new ways to unite us and facilitate healing and respect for our differences.

For the first time since the 1960's, record numbers of eligible Americans exercised their opportunity to vote. Many young Americans voted for the first time. It was refreshing to see so many young adults excited about the process and really making an effort to educate themselves about all the complex issues involved specifically with this Presidential election.

As I listened to their thoughts on the election, I was impressed with their knowledge of the issues and their wanting to be a part of the process.

We hear so much vulgarity about our younger generation. So often, the older generation accuses them of being selfish and self-centered.

On many college and high school campuses across the country, students are being obliged to meet a certain number of community service hours before they graduate.

Unfortunately, many students treat their community service obligation like a mandatory course. They merely put their time in to meet their requirement. If they can cut corners, they will.

However, there are those students who are challenged, motivated and inspired to do community service. They are excited about the opportunities to possibly make a difference. It is amazing to see the projects they take on and the work they achieve. So many of them are inspirational.

We need to celebrate the good things that so many of our young people are engaged in. A few weeks ago on the South Shore on the campus of St. Joseph's College in Patchogue, almost a hundred college coeds volunteered for an entire Saturday to help with the college's annual "Make A Difference."

The students sponsor a free "Fall Carnival" for elementary school age children, specifically inviting children from poorer communities. Almost a thousand children participated in this day of fun. So many of the students who participated could not get over the number of children who came and how profoundly they felt for giving of themselves that day.

There are countless high school students in our larger community who volunteer at our local hospitals and nursing homes. They serve meals at our local soup kitchens, tutor peers who are weak in their subjects and participate in countless volunteer projects that their churches, temples and schools sponsor.

Their spirit of generosity, care and giving beyond themselves is most refreshing within our very narcissistic world. Their creative imaginations and genius are also amazing.

Someone told me about "Jump Start Foundation." It raises money specifically for children in the neo natal unit at Mercy Medical Center. The founder uses competitive athletics to raise money and motivate others to give of themselves.

This creative genius is a fifteen-year-old high school student from Garden City who plays baseball, basketball and lacrosse. He is a scholar athlete who was talking to his Dad about doing something to give back to the community because he felt so blessed. As he and his Dad spoke, he also said that he wanted this project to be fun.

He spoke to his baseball teammates and thanks to their enthusiastic support, "Jump Start" was born. MC's cousin who lived close by was equally interested. They knew how they wanted to raise the money. Thus, they recruited high school students to compete in various sporting competitions. They would offer prizes to the winning teams, but more importantly they looked to ignite the energy among the competitors to recruit other high school athletes to join their campaign.

Their first step was to arrange a variety of tournaments. After the tournaments were in place they started to talk about what charity they would support. One of the core members talked about being a neo natal baby, he shared that if it were not for the doctor and nurses in his unit, he would never have made it. This articulate sixteen year old talked about his gratitude and how he wanted to give something back for the second chance at life he was given.

His peers did not know that part of his story. Needless to say, they were overwhelmed and now had their proposed charity, a neonatal unit in a hospital. Mercy Medical Center was the closest. They contacted the hospital. They were thrilled for the fiscal support and equally important, they were thrilled with the commitment of these young athletes to support this unit in the hospital.

MC and his friends started raising money last June. In this brief time, this small group of high school athletes has raised over $10,000 for their cause.

As word continues to spread about this small band of high school athletes and their generous spirit, more and more athletes are reaching out and asking how they might help. The power of their example has become contagious.

What caught my attention about these high school students was not that they were athletes or that most were scholar athletes, but that they were a group of buddies who were hanging out one day, sharing how lucky they were with family, school, friends and health and that they felt compelled to give something back.

None of the young men who are the prime movers with Jump Start attend high schools that have any mandatory requirements for community service. These young men are giving of themselves for the sake of giving. Now that is refreshing.