Among my earliest memories are the many times my brothers and I were in the back seat of the car while my mother drove Margaret to the local Helen Keller Center. Margaret was a young, blind woman and neighbor, and her activities at the center provided her an opportunity to be with other blind young adults. As three kids under 10, we complained that we had better things to be doing after school, at which point my mother would say, “Believe it or not, the world does not revolve around you.”
As a little girl I loved listening to my great-grandmother tell me about the marches and protests she attended to fight for the woman’s right to vote. And I remember walking with my grandmother to the mailbox as she mailed irate letters to her congressmen and the newspaper whenever there was a situation that she just couldn’t accept.
Later memories included being a teenager and not being allowed to use the phone at night because our mom was on her weekly “FISH Duty” phone duty, which essentially meant she would get the first call if there was a crisis in the parish. For a teenage girl in the ‘70’s long before cell phones - and even before call-waiting and answering machines - not being able to use the phone all night was unacceptable. I don’t think any such crisis call ever came, but off the phone we stayed. There were also PTA meetings, dinner deliveries to homebound neighbors and walk-a-thons; she dragged us with her all the time, and through it all I assumed it was just to avoid paying a babysitter.
I went on to raise my own four children. I quit my advertising job after our first was born to stay home with him. As the others were born, I got more involved in my community. I dragged my own kids to PTA meetings, Junior League meetings, hospital auxiliary meetings and fundraisers. They, too, complained that they had better things they could be doing.
But I persisted, because it dawned on me that like my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother, it was not only important to do our own service but to build a culture of service around us. They were the role models that informed my view of how critical it is to be part of something bigger than myself. My children are now young adults. One recently returned from two years in the Peace Corps; another will soon graduate from college and has joined Teach for America.
Service comes in many forms and is critical on every level: national, public, and community. I was drawn to SAM by its set of core principles. I joined SAM to answer the call to serve, and to help our country rebuild its culture of service.