Each January, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a day of service to remember his lifetime of service to our nation. On January 15, people across the country, including many Scouts, will carry out volunteer projects to improve their communities. This occasion is a wonderful opportunity to help others, but we should always remember that service should not be limited to milestone days on the calendar. Scouting encourages service as a pillar of a Scout’s life in the same way that it was a fixture in the life of Dr. King.
When we serve, we often say we are “giving back.” Implied in this phrase is the idea that we’ve received something, we appreciate it and we are motivated to reciprocate that gift or pay it forward. Gratitude is fundamental to service. By promoting service, our programs not only encourage young people to know how they can influence their communities, but also to express this kind of appreciation for the blessings in their lives. Reinforcing these attitudes benefits both society and our participants.
Studies have shown that gratitude is associated with improved wellbeing and life satisfaction in adolescents, as well as decreased likelihood of depression and behavioral problems. Additionally, expressing gratitude has been associated with more school-related success and satisfaction, and helps to promote positive peer relationships. Likewise, volunteering provides stress relief and a stronger sense of purpose. It’s official: living the “help other people” line of the Scout oath makes us more likely to keep ourselves keep physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to find volunteer opportunities near you and learn more about Dr. King’s legacy of service this MLK Day. Your community will be better as a result … and so will you.
Yours in Scouting,