With the best of all possible intentions, I keep a file folder filled with things to read. (To be fair, I also have a couple of piles that accumulate with the same intention.) I see great headlines that people share on twitter and love to stay up to date with the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Quarterly, but, like many of us, struggle to find the time. So I was really glad when I set aside a few moments to delve into Civic Life in America, an issue brief published by the Corporation for National and Community Service and National Conference on Citizenship.
There were several key findings in the report, including that people who volunteer are more likely to be civically engaged. In addition, the report demonstrates that most Americans are involved in at least one civic activity, actively seeking to improve the quality of communities.
In a clear showing of people coming together to improve their communities, this past Saturday was “Make a Difference Day.” The nation’s largest day of volunteerism, this was the 20th anniversary of Make a Difference Day.
I still remember my first Make a Difference Day. I was a few weeks into my term as an AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps member and spent a full day working alongside community members in Washington, DC, renovating low-income apartment homes. With hundreds of people, we spread out to plant trees and flowers and clean and paint homes. The greatest part of this day was that people who had never heard of Make a Difference Day just showed up to help out. Neighbors saw us cleaning up the park and asked if they could help. Children came out of nowhere to join in service to improve their community. On this day, it seemed like everyone wanted to be civically engaged.
All too often, we focus on the bad news – a violent incident or school dropout rates. Let’s take a moment to focus on some of the good – most people are engaged. Most people want to join in and make a positive difference and tackle some of those “bad news” issues. It’s not always on a big day of service; instead, it’s ongoing formal and informal service that makes our communities healthier. For many people, every day is Make a Difference Day.